OMAHA, Neb. — When the attack-minded Dean Blais was named in June as Nebraska-Omahas new hockey head coach, one idea immediately sprang to Maverick fans minds: goals. And lots of them.
They got just that during the Mavericks 6-4 Icebreaker Tournament victory over Army at Qwest Center Omaha on Friday night, but most of the 6,092 fans in attendance probably didnt anticipate the two-way traffic that they ended up being witness to.
Neither team had a monopoly on scoring in Friday second semifinal, with both sides seeing to it that the scorekeepers were busy all night long, especially during a 5:22 stretch during the second period where the teams combined for four goals.
Army came out on the better end of that clip in the middle frame, scoring three of those four goals to eventually chase UNO senior goaltender Jeremie Dupont from the Maverick net after a gutsy individual goalmouth effort by a falling Cody Omilusik tied the game at 3-3 at 8:27 of the period.
Blais, who then pulled Dupont in favor of redshirt freshman John Faulkner, could only be impressed with what he saw from the Black Knights, who came into Fridays game being perceived by many as the bottom seed in the tournament.
It wasnt that we were really breaking down, its just that they were playing more of our game than we did, Blais said. They created a lot of chances in the offensive zone, and we ran through four lines and could hardly get out of our zone.
The third period belonged to UNO, though, with the Mavericks scoring three goals in the final frame to overturn the 4-3 deficit they faced after the first 40 minutes of the game.
J.J. Koehler equalized for the Mavericks 2:01 into the third period when he redirected a long shot from defenseman Eric Olimb past Army goaltender Jay Clark. The winner came nine minutes later when freshman winger Terry Broadhurst picked up his own rebound from an initial shot and backhanded the puck home to put the hosts ahead for good.
An empty netter from Nick Fanto with under eight seconds left brought the game to its final tally, and Broadhurst, whose first collegiate goal clinched the victory for UNO, was quick to praise his teammates collective attitude coming back out for the third period.
The thing in the locker room was that no-one was going into that third period and was going to accept a loss, he said. Everyone believed that we were going to win, and everyone came out in the third and every line was going back-and-forth, 1-2-3-4, and I think thats what did it.
It certainly wasnt all bad for the Mavericks opponent on Friday, however, with Army head coach Brian Riley sensing that, despite the loss, there were some positives from Friday nights game that he and his Black Knights can take into Saturday afternoons consolation match against St. Lawrence.
We saw how we can play, and I thought that we played pretty well in the second period, but we also learned that its a 60-minute game, Riley said. You have to be a really good team to only come out and play 20 minutes of a hockey game (and win), and I thought that UNO played well for two periods and we played well for one, and thats why they were the winning team.
We learned some lessons here tonight, and while its a tough way to learn, hopefully we wont have to go through it again.
Saturdays third-place game between the Black Knights and St. Lawrence starts at 4 p.m. at Qwest Center Omaha, followed by the championship game between UNO and UMass-Lowell.