OMAHA, Neb. — There is, of course, no such thing as playing the perfect hockey game, but after No. 10 Miami’s 6-1 pasting of Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday night, the RedHawks have to feel they came pretty close to doing just that.
Three goals in the first 14 minutes of the game, the first two on the power play and then the third coming just three seconds after a UNO player hit the penalty box to bring the teams to four-on-four, provided a more than solid foundation for the eventual blowout.
Another three RedHawks’ goals, one in the second period, two in the third, and the visitors had all they needed to send most of the 10,111 fans at Qwest Center Omaha home short on answers about their own team and long on questions.
Miami came roaring out of the gate on Saturday, attempting an astounding 35 shots on the Mavericks’ net in the first period alone. Only 15 of those attempts were on target, but it was more than enough to force a goaltending change out of the hosts early on, and rarely from then on did it things look anything resembling upwards for UNO.
“We just got behind the eight-ball early,” UNO head coach Mike Kemp said. “You can’t give a team like Miami that many power play opportunities and put you back in a hole, and we never got out of the hole.
“Every time we tried to get out of that hole, we were right back into it.”
UNO never looked much like getting back into the game after Miami’s early trio of goals from forwards Carter Camper, Pat Cannone, both of whom ended the goal with two goals apiece, and defenseman Will Weber. They would eventually pull a somewhat controversial goal back through Matt Ambroz with 3:12 left in the game.
The play was reviewed, as it appeared that Ambroz’s stick may have been higher than the crossbar when he redirected Dan Charleston’s long shot into the net, but the late tally could hardly be described as a consolation.
On the other hand, the win was understandably a most welcome sight in the RedHawk camp. The visitors had only won one out of their last seven games coming into Saturday night, and especially having lost a 2-0 lead to UNO late on Friday before losing in a shootout to the Mavericks, MU head coach Enrico Blasi’s side was more than happy to get the win on Saturday and come away from Omaha with three points on the weekend.
“This is a team that’s got some pretty good leadership,” Blasi said after the game. “We let them do their thing, and we knew we’d come out hard tonight, execute and play 60 minutes, that’s been our game plan all along.
“It’s important for us to play well, and that’s what we did tonight, (so) it’s a good step forward as we go down the stretch here.”
Cannone, the game’s first star with two goals and an assist, echoed his coach’s comments.
“We just know what we have to do to win a game,” he said. “We took the loss last night personally, so we really wanted to take it to UNO tonight. The win is huge for us going down the stretch. We’re bouncing back slowly, but we’re just trying to keep rolling here and keep wins coming along.”
Cannone and the RedHawks (14-8-4, 12-5-3-1 CCHA) now travel back home to Oxford, Ohio, ahead of next weekend’s big intrastate series with Bowling Green at home. UNO (13-9-5, 8-7-5-3) will also have their hands full in a week’s time, traveling to Big Rapids, Mich. for two games against Ferris State as they fight to stay in the hunt for a top-four spot in the league standings.