OMAHA, Neb. — Winning ugly earns you as many points in the standings as winning with style and flair will, so don’t expect to see anyone from the Nebraska-Omaha hockey team complaining too much after their 5-3 victory over Bowling Green on Friday night in front of 5,197 at the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
It was rarely flowing, attractive hockey to watch, and ‘rarely’ might be generous, with the game-winning goal, a redirection of an Ed Del Grosso shot off of senior forward Brandon Scero’s skate, serving as a rather fitting end to a game whose sloppiness overshadowed the end-to-end action that one would otherwise expect from an eight-goal game.
“There were parts of the game that weren’t necessarily works of art,” UNO coach Mike Kemp said. “I was not really disappointed, although maybe I will be after I see the tape tonight, but I thought we did what we had to do.”
Mission accomplished, then, for a UNO team (14-13-4, 11-10-4 CCHA) that didn’t have the game wrapped up by any means until Scero’s winner on a power play, one of the Mavericks’ two strikes with the man advantage that left the Falcons (14-15-0, 11-12-0 CCHA) and BGSU head coach Scott Paluch disappointed.
“We did a decent job throughout the entire game, but you want your power play to score goals, and UNO’s did,” he said. “They have a lot of good players out there, and their power play won the game for them.”
The Mavericks could have been forgiven for entering the game with a sense of trepidation after losing senior captain Bryan Marshall to an ankle injury that occurred earlier in the day. However, Marshall’s senior line-mates Scero (a goal and three assists) and Mick Lawrence (two assists) were able to make up for their fallen compatriot’s absence.
“The biggest reaction after a game like that is relief, because we stepped into it without Marsh and lost him five minutes before game time,” Kemp said. “It’s more of a shock than anything else there, so you wonder how your team is going to respond.
“I went to the (other) seniors before the game and said, ‘You guys need to pick up the slack here; this is your time to lead now.’ You can’t be sitting back saying, ‘Oh, woe is me;’ it’s time to go out and do something about it.”
Despite the seniors’ heroics however, the game didn’t live up to many Mavericks’ fans’ expectations, especially with so many of them waxing nostalgic this week in remembrance of the infamous 2000 CCHA Play-In game at the jam-packed Civic Auditorium in which the Mavericks defeated the Falcons 3-1 to go to the CCHA finals in Detroit in their very first season in the league.
Unfortunately, the atmosphere in the building on Friday did not even come close to that of that much-revered evening eight years ago, something that did not go unnoticed by Kemp. However, it was the somewhat meager attendance on Friday, less than half of the school-record 10,548 that saw the Mavericks defeat Ohio State
last weekend at Qwest Center Omaha, which really left something to be desired from the home crowd.
“I know we’re in a holiday week, but one of the myths about this place is that you can’t get a ticket when we play here, and that’s not right,” he said. “When we play here, there’s still availability.
“The students didn’t turn out the way I thought they should have, and we need them here. What a great atmosphere we could’ve had if they were here. It would’ve been great.”
There will be one more chance for the Mavericks’ faithful to stir up the echoes of their team’s famous playoff win over the Falcons though, as the two teams square off again once more tomorrow night at the Civic Auditorium.