OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha head coach Dean Blais was provided with a lot of moments during Fridays game against Western Michigan where he thought that hed seen that same proverbial film before.
Fortunately for him, though, the final five minutes of Fridays clash showed Blais that the game was not, indeed, a re-run. Instead, the No. 19 Mavericks survived an impressive three goal comeback from the Broncos before UNO eventually walked away from Qwest Center Omaha as a 4-3 winner.
Just as UNO (6-4-3 overall, 3-4-2-1 in the CCHA) did twice last week at Northern Michigan before losing on both nights, the Mavericks jumped out to a big lead during Fridays opening frame against WMU, getting a goal apiece from Dan Swanson, Alex Hudson and Brandon Richardson to open up a 3-0 lead 12:33 into the game.
Things soon started to fall apart once again for UNO, however.
Western Michigan sophomore winger Derek Roehl scored 30 seconds after Richardsons tally on a soft wrist shot from the slot that beat unobstructed Maverick goaltender Jeremie Dupont between his legs. The Broncos would then cut UNOs lead to one goal at 15:38 of the second period, thanks to a Dane Walters shot that deflected in off of senior forward Chris Clacksons stick, again going between Duponts wickets.
Blais had seen enough from Dupont for the night after the second period ended, thus forcing him to bring in redshirt freshman John Faulkner at the start of the third period. That didnt stop the
Broncos from tying the game up with 4:54 left in regulation, though, with J.J. Crews fifth goal of the season coming off of the rebound from an initial shot by Jared Katz.
Just as a quick transition led to Westerns first goal, however, UNO benefited from the same principle in Fridays third period, with Hudson beating Bronco goaltender Riley Gill for the game-winner. The sophomore centers third goal of the campaign came just 18 seconds after Crew had appeared to cap off a well-executed comeback from the Broncos.
Speaking after the game, Blais understandably felt relieved having just watched his Mavericks snap their three game losing streak.
We came out and established that we were desperate and had to win the game, Blais said. Wed had three games in row before tonight where we played kind of hard and lost, and tonight we got out to a 3-0 lead and still worked hard, but they got a couple of opportune goals, and theyre right back in the game.
It was good to see our guys play well after we took a 4-3 lead, though, and we didnt give them many chances at all after that.
It did seem like we were seeing a lot of the same bad things from last weekend again, but I had a feeling that we were going to win this game, no matter what. Were desperate and were going to find a way to win, and when that fourth goal went in, I pretty much knew that we were going to win the game, but it was never overconfidence at all. Were a desperate team. We had to win this game tonight.
In most every sense, though, Fridays result was harsh on WMU (5-6-2, 1-6-2-1) and on Bronco head coach Jim Culhane, who knew what to expect coming in on Friday but was obviously hoping for a better ending for his side.
UNO has come out pretty well in the games (from this season) that Ive seen on tape, and knowing that theyre playing here at home coming off of a weekend series where they got swept on the road, you knew that they were going to come out hard, Culhane said.
Obviously, though, were disappointed with the outcome and the end result. The goal is to win. Well all take this as a disappointment on our part. You battle back to tie the hockey game with five minutes to go, and at that point, you want to get points out of the game. Thats the goal: To get points every game, every weekend.
As many as three points are still up for grabs from this weekends series, though, and Culhanes Broncos will try to earn them as they face UNO once again on Saturday night in Omaha.