OMAHA, Neb. — The actual saying is third times the charm, not fifteenth. But after Nebraska-Omahas 3-0 win over Ferris State in Game 1 of their CCHA first round playoff series on Friday night at Qwest Center Omaha, the Mavericks will likely be happy to excuse the misunderstanding.
What had started out as a typical opening-game-of-the-playoffs chess match Friday turned into a comfortable win for the eighth seeded Mavericks, with forwards Alex Hudson and J.P. Platisha both scoring long-awaited goals in the second period before Matt Ambroz put the game out of reach in the third.
Its tremendous for these kids to get proof that if you do play well and do the right things, good things can happen, UNO head coach Mike Kemp said. For the last two months theyve done those things and havent had it work out their way.
The Mavericks had gone a mind-boggling 14 games without an NCAA-recognized win coming into the playoffs, so any source of goals to the good would have been appreciated by the 4,380 in attendance on Friday. However, Hudsons and Platishas strikes were particularly unexpected, just by virtue of how long it had been since each of them had last found the back of the net.
Hudson opened the scoring at 5:28 of the second period on Friday with his first goal since scoring twice at Yale on Dec. 29, this time having forced a turnover high in the Ferris State zone before deking past a Bulldog defender and beating FSU goalie Taylor Nelson low to the far side of the net.
Platisha would double the lead at 9:55, combining with JJ Koehler on a 2-on-1 before slipping the puck past Nelson, who had come to the top of his crease to challenge, for a shorthanded marker. It was the seniors first goal–his first point, even–since he became a hero in Maverick circles in last seasons first-round matchup against Alaska, where he scored the series-clincher in the third overtime of Game 3.
J.P.s played so hard, and theres a guy who throughout his career has been a role player and hasnt been looked at to be a goal-scorer, but hes come up big for us now two years in a row, Kemp said. Over the last stretch of games, going back to at least (the Michigan series), hes played very well, and its nice to see him get a little reward.
Hes kind of having that last month of your senior year that you hope seniors have.
From there, UNO senior goaltender Jerad Kaufmann took over, eventually amassing 24 saves on the night, making him the first keeper in Maverick history to earn a shutout in the postseason.
Kaufmann, who was actually unaware that no Maverick goalie had ever achieved that feat, seemed happy with not only his performance, but of that of the whole team.
It was a great game tonight all around, he said. Guys were blocking a ton of shots, and thats what youve got to do in the playoffs, so they kept it pretty easy for me for the most part, so Im very pleased with how we played.
The shutout was a dream start to the playoffs for the Mavericks, but they still need another win over ninth seeded FSU if theyre going to advance to the second round of the league playoffs, and the Bulldogs will be desperate to snap their own winless streak, a six-game losing skid dating back to mid-February.
I know we need to come out tomorrow and play hard, head coach Bob Daniels said. Theres no such thing as (a teams turn to win), but we just need to go out there and play hard and see how we do.
Its best-of-three, so youve got to win two, and were starting tomorrow the same way we started tonight. We just need two wins.
Theyll try to get one when they meet up with UNO again on Saturday for Game 2 in Omaha.