OMAHA, Neb. — With its future league commissioner among the 6,198 in attendance at Qwest Center Omaha on Friday night, the No. 11 Nebraska-Omaha hockey team knew that it had a golden opportunity to make a good impression.
UNO had its most complete game of the season on Friday, riding atop big performances from wingers Rich Purslow and Brandon Richardson as well as goaltender Jeremie Duponts third collegiate shutout along the way to a comfortable 4-0 win over visiting league rival Lake Superior State.
The hosts controlled the game from the outset, with Richardsons first goal as a Maverick and Purslows sixth strike of the season coming 4:02 apart in the first period to send the Mavericks back to the dressing room with a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes of play.
Purslow then beat LSSU goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson once again at 2:51 of the second period, this time in the slot with a wrist shot that beat the Laker netminder into the far bottom corner of the net to make it 3-0. Finally, junior forward Joey Martin put the game on ice mid-way through the third period with the Mavericks second power-play goal of the night, thus capping off the rout.
UNO (5-1-3 overall, 2-1-2-1 in the CCHA) did experience a handful of defensive lapses in Fridays middle frame, thereby enlisting Dupont for his busiest part of a night that eventually saw him stop 22 shots for the shutout. But the Lakers rarely looked like they would find their way back into the teams first of four regular-season meetings against each other.
We played a good team game, UNO head coach Dean Blais said. When it was 3-0, we had a few lackadaisical shifts, but then I thought we played a smart third period.
Lake States a big, physical, grinding team, so we had to earn everything we got. They didnt give us anything, and on the goals that we got, we worked hard and moved the puck well and made plays.
Almost as important for the Mavericks, though, was their performance in front of WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, whom Blais believes is leaving Omaha this weekend with a good feeling about what the WCHA leader saw from one of his leagues two new additions for next season — the other being Bemidji State from the CHA.
I think he was happy with the crowd, and the support and enthusiasm in the building, Blais said. I dont know what kind of crowd we had (numbers-wise), but Im sure hes been looking at whether were worthy of being in WCHA, and I knew he thought we were.
We wouldnt have been admitted otherwise, and I think hes leaving with a good feeling about the support from the (Omaha) community.
As for LSSU, Fridays game marked the Lakers sixth loss in a row against CCHA opposition, including a shootout loss at Western Michigan a week ago Friday, and Lake State head coach Jim Roque was less than enthralled with what he saw from his team in this weekends series opener.
We played well at times, but not for enough shifts in a row, Roque said. Were just inconsistent in our play, and thats just how its been over the last three weeks for us.
We havent played consistent hockey shift-in, shift-out, and we have to find a way to show up tomorrow night and give a much better effort than we did tonight.
Roque and his charges will get their chance to do just that on Saturday night, with the Lakers (4-6-1, 1-5-1) once again squaring off with the Mavericks in Omaha at 7:05 Central time.