OMAHA, Neb. — As a play on the apparently popular What do you get for the guy who has everything? dilemma, what do you get for the team that hasnt won a game in regulation or overtime in a month and a half?
The answer seems easy in theory, but not quite the same in execution.
To be sure, the University of Nebraska-Omaha put in far and away their best performance in several weeks during Friday nights tilt with second ranked Notre Dame. But bounces continued to go against them as Fighting Irish freshman winger Billy Maday scored his second goal of the night at 3:39 of overtime to give the visitors a 4-3 win in front of 7,367 at the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
The loss dropped the Mavericks record to 13-14-7 overall, 8-12-7-3 in the CCHA, which includes a 12 game slide where their only win was by way of a shootout against Miami. And that was nearly a month ago.
If it werent us that they were playing, Id feel bad for Mike Kemp tonight, because they played a good hockey game, Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. We were fortunate to catch a break at the end.
The Irish (24-5-3, 18-4-3-3) leapt out to a 3-1 lead that lasted until the 15:33 mark of the second period, but UNO came storming back, with linemates Matt Ambroz and Nick Fanto leveling the score heading into overtime before the Irish finally put the game away.
I have no idea what (Notre Dame) thought, but I thought that we hung with them well, Maverick head coach Mike Kemp said. We pushed them to the hilt, but didnt get the bounces when we needed them. If anything, we got the wrong bounces when we needed (the right) ones.
The unluckiest bounce from UNOs perspective came just over three and a half minutes into overtime, when Maday took a Teddy Ruth feed and beat Maverick goaltender Jeremie Dupont to secure the points for the Irish. The goal was especially harsh on Dupont, who ended the game with 29 saves and often kept the Mavericks in the game, but it was also largely non-indicative of
UNOs raised effort on Friday night, something Jackson anticipated but his players sometimes didnt seem to.
Mike Kemps going to have them ready to play, he said. The one thing that weve been having to learn over the last couple of years is that we get everybodys A-game now and our team doesnt always recognize that.
Its somewhat the Notre Dame jersey, but (also) somewhat the kids who made this program into a high-caliber one that everybody gears up to play like they do when they play teams like Michigan, and our guys dont always recognize that. I thought Omaha played a really good A-game, and we were fortunate to win it in the end.
Turning his attention to his expectations for this weeks opponents, Jackson predicted more of the same kind of effort from UNO when the two teams meet again in Omaha on Saturday.
Theyre not going to give up. Theyre a good team, and in our conference its solid from the top of the standings to the bottom, and we dont know whos going to win on any given night, he said.
UNO were in the top four of the standings in the first half of the year, and I think they still have that capability. Its going to be another battle tomorrow. Theyre playing as hard as they can because theyre playing for a position in the standings, and we are, too.
Its still about seeding for all of us, so I expect UNO to give us another great effort (tomorrow). Its going to be Senior Night for them, so I know those kids are going to be emotional, and well have to be ready to go again.
In the UNO camp, Kemp said he was pleased with the teams effort despite the loss, and that he will be looking for that same kind of effort on Saturday as they try to finally end their recent record of futility.
Were already playing desperate, so we just have to keep encouraging (our players). We played a very sound game, a solid game, and you have to keep with the fundamentals. If you do the fundamentals, that will bring you success.
Saturdays series finale starts at 7:05 CST.