OMAHA, Neb. — At the end of a weekend series filled with more tricks than treats, Nebraska-Omaha winger Rich Purslow came away the most deserving of any ‘scary-good’ superlatives.
The No. 12 Mavericks faced most of the tricks played against them Friday night into Saturday morning, after the CCHA announced that Bowling Green’s controversial shootout win on Friday would stand.
UNO turned its frustrations into a positive force on Saturday night though, using a pair of goals from Purslow en route to a 3-1 win over the Falcons in front of 4,028 spectators at Qwest Center Omaha.
The Mavericks heavily outshot their visitors for the second night in succession, this time forcing BGSU goaltender Andrew Hammond into making 30 saves to go along with the 43 he made on Friday.
Both sides’ defensive troops were much stingier in the series finale, however, and UNO had to rely on getting big plays from its bigger names in order to salvage a split from the weekend.
Both teams had trouble executing in the final third of the ice early on, with neither team registering a shot on goal until several minutes into the game.
UNO’s offense finally came alive near the end of the first period when senior defenseman Eddie DelGrosso found Purslow in the left slot, and Purslow beat Hammond under the goalie’s arm at the near post with 1:44 left in Saturdays opening frame.
UNO struck in the waning moments of the second period as well, with Del Grosso cutting through two BGSU defenders before beating Hammond with 24.6 seconds left in the period.
The Falcons pulled a goal back 1:51 into the third period through Jordan Samuels-Thomas, with the BGSU freshman winger notching his second goal of the weekend, but UNO restored its two-goal lead for good half a minute later through Purslow’s second goal of the night and his third of the weekend.
UNO coach Dean Blais was particularly impressed with Purslow’s performance on the weekend, but the Mavericks’ new coach was also quick to mention that he wants many of his players to help in carrying the goal-scoring load.
“Rich is a sniper,” Blais said. “He’s got good hockey sense and really good hands, and he can put the puck away, so he’s really surprised me this year.
“He tries to bury the puck in practice, too, and that carries over into the games, so if we have a sniper right now, it’s him, but we’d like a few more.
“The CCHA is going to be a battle and a grind this year. You look at all the scores in the league, and there’s been a lot of splits, so that’s a big (extra) point (from the shootout) that Bowling Green got last night, and one that got away from us. Our guys here worked a little harder tonight than normal, knowing that you can’t work too far behind.”
The controversy surrounding the end of Friday’s game certainly had an affect on both teams, but UNO seemed to have ultimately come out best from the situation, and DelGrosso stressed the idea that he and his teammates had to move forward, not back, after Friday’s disappointment.
“When you’ve been doing this for so long, there’s a lot of times like that where stuff happens,” DelGrosso said. “Stuff gets away from you in games, and that’s disappointing and frustrating, but you learn at this level that you have to move on and turn right around the next night and play a game, and it’s got to be better than your last one.
“Everyone just turns their focus to the next day. It’s over with, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve got to move on.”
As for Bowling Green (0-5-1, 0-1-1-1 CCHA), it was pleased to earn a split from its first of two consecutive weekends on the road, and interim head coach Dennis Williams has been impressed with the development he’s seen from his players coming out of an opening stretch where the Falcons lost their first four competitive games.
“Sometimes we forget that we’re still young (as a team), and we’re going to take some lumps, but I’m more concerned with how we respond to it,” Williams said. “If we get better and see improvement with the guys each day and with the team collectively, then I’m pretty happy.”
Williams and his Falcons are on the road once again next weekend, with league rival Ferris State ready to welcome BGSU to Big Rapids. UNO (4-0-2, 1-0-1-0) is also on the road next weekend as the Mavericks travel to face No. 20 Michigan State.