OMAHA, Neb. — The message from the Miami RedHawks to the rest of the CCHA after their 4-1 victory over Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday night was crystal-clear: ‘We’re back.’
Any remaining signs of shock leftover from last Friday’s upset loss at Bowling Green were well and truly lifted Saturday in a game in which the visitors dominated from the thirteenth minute on.
The home side looked determined to send their guests straight back into the doldrums after the RedHawks 6-3 victory on Friday, and their plan had looked to come to fruition after a highlight reel-worthy unassisted goal from senior captain Bryan Marshall 3:57 into the game that brought a deafening roar from the 8,932 in attendance at Qwest Center Omaha.
The momentum would soon shift away from them, though, on a play that didn’t get Miami on the scoreboard but did seem to spark their own offensive corps. On a two-on-one that was indicative of the Mavericks’ dominance early on, Brandon Scero saw a shot blocked by RedHawks’ junior defenseman Kevin Roeder on a play that may well have otherwise allowed UNO to double their lead.
“In my opinion, the biggest point in the game was the block Roeder made on Scero on that two-on-one,” UNO coach Mike Kemp said. “If we finish that off, we’re up 2-0, and they’re probably a little bit on their heels. All of a sudden, that’s a little different than the one goal. We could have nursed (a two-goal lead) a little longer, and then you never know what’s going to happen.”
The game-changing block from Roeder paid dividends for the visitors before too long, with Mitch Ganzak beating UNO goaltender Jerad Kaufmann for his first goal of the season at 13:11 of the opening stanza.
Ganzak had 17 assists coming into the game before finally scoring a goal of his own, but Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was just happy with the timeliness of his senior defenseman’s first marker of the year.
“His job is not to score goals,” Blasi said after the game. “His job is to keep the other team from setting them up. I’m glad he got a goal tonight, though, because it was a big goal for us.”
The RedHawks took their momentum into the second period, and a redirected goal from senior Ryan Jones at 4:52 of the frame helped to ensure that UNO would not enjoy the kind of second period dominance that left them with a solid chance of winning Friday night’s tilt up until the last six minutes of the game.
“We knew that we had a letdown in the second period yesterday, and that we were going to have to step it up tonight,” Jones said. “Mainly it just came down to leadership from the guys in the dressing room tonight, letting everyone know that if we wanted to win the hockey game, we’d have to step up.”
It was plain to see that Miami had a chokehold on the game by this point, and two third-period goals from Carter Camper and Tommy Wingels, the latter an empty-netter, clinched the sweep for the RedHawks (21-3-0, 13-3-0 CCHA) on the weekend.
On the other side of the coin, a second consecutive loss leaves UNO (9-12-3, 6-9-3 CCHA) feeling like they are on the outside looking in for the home stretch, despite sitting in fifth place in the league table coming into Saturday night’s game.
“At this point, forget about our record, because we’re not going to win the regular season championship,” Marshall said. “We’re not going to get an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, so right now we’re not thinking about our record at all.
“What we need to do is start getting better every day in practice, and get ourselves in as good a position as we can going into the playoffs.”
“We’re looking at each day now and each game as playoff hockey for us,” UNO coach Mike Kemp said. “We’re trying to hold our position and move up in the standings, and it’s very important for us to do that.
“It’s one of those things where you get back to the drawing board. It’s the same old thing; your window of opportunity shrinks, so you need to make sure you get an opportunity to get out there, get back after it and take advantage of opportunities when you get the chance.”
UNO will look to create some of those chances in an important road series next weekend at Alaska, while Miami now goes home to Oxford, Ohio to prepare for a series with last-place Lake Superior.