OMAHA, Neb. — One week after the Nebraska-Omaha hockey team got a long-sitting monkey off their backs about winning at home, Bowling Green exorcised some demons of their own on Saturday night regarding beating the Mavericks, well, anywhere.
The Falcons (15-15-0, 12-12-0 CCHA) appeared to be doomed to another long night after weathering the Mavericks’ storm in the first period on Saturday, getting outshot 17-8 and going back to the dressing room dejected following a last-minute goal by UNO freshman Joey Martin, but a pair of strikes from senior captain Derek Whitmore saw the Falcons through in a 3-1 victory in front of 7,836 at the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
The win was the Falcons’ first over UNO (14-14-4, 11-11-4 CCHA) since early in the 2005-06 season, having dropped nine consecutive decisions to the Mavericks since then.
Needless to say, the victory left everyone in the Bowling Green camp not only pleased with Saturday’s result, but also feeling relieved to finally get one over on the Mavericks.
“It hasn’t bothered me personally; it’s all about our team and our players,” BG coach Scott Paluch said. “We’ve worked extremely hard against this team without having a lot of success against them, so to earn two points against a great team in a great environment, I feel pretty good about it.”
After taking control in the second period, unleashing 19 shots on UNO goalie Jerad Kaufmann, in the middle frame, the Falcons were led on Saturday by a Herculean performance from Whitmore, scoring his 25th and 26th goals of the season to add onto the goal he scored Friday night in a 5-3 loss to UNO.
“He was really big for us this weekend,” Paluch said. “You want your best players to play well in big games, and that’s what he’s done. He wanted more out of our team after last night, and he spoke up as their captain, and he and the team proudly delivered.”
Most of the action, including Whitmore’s game-winner, came in a fast-paced second period that was defined in large part by a plethora of scoring chances at both ends of the ice. The most glaring examples came in the last five minutes of the period, in which not only did Whitmore score, but the Falcons also hit the post once and had a breakaway stopped by Kaufmann.
This isn’t to say that the Mavericks were without their own opportunities in the period though, and UNO coach Mike Kemp was especially disappointed that his players were unable to take advantage of them.
“They had great opportunities there, and that’s all you can say about that,” he said. “We had our share in the second period, too, but we just didn’t capitalize.
“It wasn’t like we weren’t getting chances. We were, but we just couldn’t capitalize on them.”
The loss will be especially worrying to the Mavericks, as Bowling Green has two league games in hand on them, which could potentially see the Falcons leapfrog over UNO into the fifth spot in the CCHA table.
“Games in hand are good if you win them,” Paluch said. “We’re still two points behind (UNO), but we’ve gotten a boost out of beating a good team in a hostile environment, so now we have to go home and just play well the rest of the way.”
The Falcons have two tough home games next week against a rejuvenated Ferris State, who notched a surprising sweep over No. 2 Miami. UNO also faces stiff competition next week, squaring off with Northern Michigan in Marquette.