OMAHA, Neb. — This weekend’s Icebreaker Tournament didn’t go exactly to plan for the Nebraska-Omaha hockey team, but if you told the Mavericks that they’d win a championship despite conceding seven goals in two games, they’d still take it.
That’s exactly what happened for the Icebreaker hosts this season, with UNO overcoming an early 2-0 deficit to prevail 4-3 over No. 11 UMass-Lowell in Saturday’s tournament final in front of 5,714 fans at Qwest Center Omaha.
The Mavericks stumbled out of the gate on Saturday, letting UML jump out to a two-goal lead through the first 7:26 of the opening period thanks to goals from Paul Worthington and Kory Falite. A Rich Purslow goal at 10:24 of the period and strikes from Nick Fanto and Matt Ambroz early into the following frame, however, reversed UNO’s fortunes and catapulted the Mavericks temporarily into the lead.
UML junior forward Scott Campbell restored parity at 5:25 of the second period, though, when he stuffed home the rebound from a failed wraparound attempt from River Hawks’ freshman Riley Wetmore. Campbell’s even-strength marker forced UNO coach Dean Blais to pull starting goaltender Jeremie Dupont in the second period for the second night in succession, and redshirt freshman John Faulkner played the remaining 34:35 of the Saturday’s game.
Just as Blais’s move to replace Dupont in Friday’s middle frame had helped to motivate the Mavericks en route to their 6-4 victory over Army, the move seemed to do the trick once again on Saturday. What’s more, it was the Mavericks’ youth who answered the call following the change in goal in the Icebreaker title game.
Freshman Terry Broadhurst made sure that Faulkner wasn’t the only (relative) newcomer to the team that would make a difference for the Mavericks this weekend, and the third-line winger scored his second consecutive game-winning goal at 8:52 of the second period, latching onto John Kemp’s centering feed from behind the goal line before beating UML goaltender Carter Hutton stick-side.
Blais didn’t single Broadhurst out after the game, but he did heap praise upon his younger players, as well as the older players who made way to allow the youngsters to gain experience this weekend.
“I think (the freshmen) are all good, and even the guys that were out of the lineup were cheering and were happy that we won,” Blais said. “It’s not easy to replace a kid in the lineup that had been sitting up (in the stands) and wants to play in the game, but their attitudes are good.
“They accept what we decide upon, and there’s no pouting, no resentment, (and) no jealousy amongst the team, and that’s what a team’s all about. Even the guys that are sitting out are part of the team, and part of this win.”
On the other side of the divide, River Hawks’ coach Blaise MacDonald was quick to credit UNO on its victory, but the UML coach also regretted his own team’s defensive mistakes that led to UNO’s goals.
“You’ve got to give credit to UNO, because they responded well to being under a two-goal deficit in the first period,” he said. “They played very well in the offensive zone and really possessed the puck, and they took advantage of a few of our miscues by our defensemen and put (the puck) into the back of the net, so they got what they deserved.
“Trying is like breathing, though. You’re supposed to try, but we want more than that. We expect more than that. You compete for a championship. How many times in your collegiate career do you have a chance to win one, whether it’s the Icebreaker or anything else?
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not playing the style of hockey that we’re used to, and to only get 40 shots on goal over the weekend is unheard of from our team. We expect effort and we expect determination, but we need more execution.”
MacDonald’s River Hawks (1-1-0) are idle next weekend, but they’ll look to get back on track on Oct. 23 at home against Colgate and against Hockey East rival Northeastern, again at home, the following night. UML will, however, be able to watch its most recent opponent play against UML’s next one, with UNO (2-0-0) traveling to Hamilton, N.Y. next week to face the Raiders of Colgate before returning home at the end of the month to begin its CCHA regular season slate.