OMAHA, Neb. — As Lake Superior State learned on Saturday night, there’s no more satisfying way to end a long losing streak than to do it against a team that gave you a headache only hours before.
The Lakers held a six-game winless streak coming into their weekend series finale against No. 11 Nebraska-Omaha. LSSU now leaves that dubious streak behind though, as an early goal and assist from center Rich Schofield and a 17-save third period from goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson proved enough on Saturday for a 3-1 upset win in front of 5,773 at Qwest Center Omaha.
LSSU (5-6-1, 2-5-1 in the CCHA) held court from the outset on Saturday, with Schofield breaking into the UNO zone in the game’s first minute and beating Mavericks defenseman Matt Smith twice before slotting the puck past goaltender Jeremie Dupont 59 seconds into the match.
The Lakers doubled their lead just under four minutes later, with Schofield passing from behind the net to linemate Will Acton — who had the second assist on Schofield’s opening goal — who made it 2-0 at the 4:48 mark.
UNO (5-2-3, 2-2-2-1 CCHA) looked relatively flat out of the gate, and a 2-0 lead heading back to the dressing room was no less than LSSU deserved.
The Lakers extended their lead with under a minute left in the following period, though, and freshman winger Domenic Monardo’s second goal of the season effectively put the game away.
Terry Broadhurst did pull a goal back for UNO at 2:13 of the final period, but Mahoney-Wilson then shut the door, eventually amassing 30 saves in the winning effort.
Lakers’ coach Jim Roque was again pleased with his team’s sense of endeavor on Saturday, which was something that they had exhibited but not benefited from during its recent losing streak.
“Tonight, we got some early goals and some momentum, and we played hard, but we’ve played like that on a lot of nights and lost,” Roque said. “We had that last week against Western (Michigan), too. It just happens.
“Someone’s going to get beaten by us 10-0 one of these nights; I know (our shots) are just all going to go in one night, but we’ve got to find a way to be more consistent throughout the game.”
On the other side of the dressing room divide, UNO coach Dean Blais was less than happy with his Mavericks’ performance in the second of their final four regular-season CCHA meetings with the Lakers.
“Their first shot goes in, but we had three or four mistakes before that puck went into the net, and then you get 12 shots on net in the (first) two periods and in the desperation third period, you get 18,” Blais said. “We know that we’re a good Saturday night team, but you can’t just expect to win without the effort, because I think Lake Superior just outworked us.”
Be that as it may, UNO, which was tied with Alaska for fourth place in the CCHA coming into Saturday’s action, has to be concerned about its recent run of form. The Mavericks have effectively split each of their first three league series, and Blais knows that his team will need to pick up the pace going into next weekend’s series at Northern Michigan if UNO wants to improve its fortunes.
“Anyone can beat anyone on any given night, and it’s the team that’s the hungriest and capitalizes on its opportunities (that wins), and they did that twice right away, and that sent is into a spin that we didn’t recover from until the third period, and it was too little too late,” Blais said.
“We had a couple of great chances in the third period, but sometimes the hockey gods don’t reward you for things you don’t deserve, either, and I don’t think we deserved it.”
As for LSSU, which now goes home to prepare for a tough series next weekend against Alaska, Roque is confident that his Lakers can use lessons learnt during Saturday’s win as a springboard toward better results.
“We’re fighting, but we’re not totally in sync yet,” Roque said. “We’ve needed to get some confidence, and we’re going home to play Alaska, and they’re a very tough defensive team, so it doesn’t get any easier in this league, but we’ve got a chance to go home and get our home record back on track, too.
“The spark is in the (dressing) room, though, I know it’s there. We just need to find some consistency for every shift and every period. Once we do that, we’ll get some momentum and some wins under our belt, and then we can start feeling good about ourselves again.”