OMAHA, Neb. — Entering the CCHA playoffs, the Nebraska-Omaha hockey team decided to wipe their long-standing 14-game winless streak from their memory banks and instead view the so-called ‘second season’ as a brand new one.
With one win from their best-of-three first round series with Ferris State already in the bag, the Mavericks relied on a three-point night from sophomore forward Joey Martin as the Mavericks cruised past the Bulldogs 5-2 on Saturday in front of 4,795 at Qwest Center Omaha. The win clinched the series for the Mavericks.
“I was pleased with the effort, and I thought it was a solid win if not spectacular,” UNO coach Mike Kemp said about Saturday’s game, although those comments could really also be extended to describe the whole weekend. “I thought we handled the pressure and handled the challenge of back-to-back (playoff) games in good fashion.”
Apart from the fact that UNO senior goaltender Jerad Kaufmann wasn’t able to earn a second consecutive shutout after having blanked the Bulldogs 3-0 on Friday, Saturday saw the Mavericks once again control the game for the most part, jumping out to a 3-0 second period lead and sparingly having to look over their proverbial shoulder.
Matt Ambroz opened the scoring on a power-play marker with 1:06 left in the first period, and the hosts would be home and dry before the second period was out.
Martin latched onto a feed from Dan Charleston coming off a turnover behind FSU goaltender Pat Nagle’s net before scoring 1:31 into the second period to double the Mavericks’ lead, and then bookended a JJ Koehler goal 2:01 after his first one by taking a highlight reel spin-o-rama pass from John Kemp and beating Nagle again at 15:04 of the period to essentially put the series on ice.
Ferris State countered with a pair of goals on the night from senior forward Brendan Connolly, but the Bulldogs never really looked like getting back into the game and thus the series.
“I thought Nebraska played a very strong series, and was really the better team (and) certainly tonight,” FSU head coach Bob Daniels said. “They deserved to win the series, and I wish them all the luck in the world as they move on.
“When we got into this series, they just had more hop and made more plays, and they were by far the better team. We weren’t having a great series, and UNO were.”
Both teams had been struggling going into the weekend-Ferris themselves had lost their last five-but whereas the Bulldogs couldn’t manage to find the impetus to break out of their funk and get through the first round of the league playoffs, the bounces suddenly came all at once for their counterparts, and it’s UNO instead of the Bulldogs thats off into the second round.
“We went through all that struggle through the whole second half of the year, working hard and not being rewarded,” Kemp said. “When we had the weekend off, it was a clean break and everybody put that on the back-burner and you can see players playing differently.
“It’s a step we needed to make, and obviously it’s a big relief to make that step. We’re getting productivity throughout the lineup now, and there are a lot of things that are positives that we’ll be taking into next week, not the least of them being confidence. Certainly if we can continue to do the things we’re doing, great things can happen the rest of the way.”
As of Saturday night, UNO (15-15-8) still awaits news of where they will be going for the second round of the CCHA playoffs, which will depend on results elsewhere. Ferris State ends their season 12-19-7 overall.