MANKATO, Minn. — When Minnesota State’s Tyler Thompson was called for holding with the score tied and three seconds left in the third period, it seemed Nebraska-Omaha had just received a gift. UNO had used a power play to tie the game in the first period Friday at the Verizon Wireless Center, and this man advantage couldn’t have come at a better time.
“If you asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I’d tell you a power play in overtime,” said UNO assistant coach Mike Hastings, who is filling in for head coach Dean Blais while he coaches the U.S. U20 team in the World Junior Championships.
However, the MSU penalty killers prevented UNO from scoring the game-winner and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
“The kids did a great job killing that off,” said MSU coach Troy Jutting. :I thought it gave us a jump after and we applied some pretty good pressure the last three minutes.”
UNO’s best opportunity in overtime came with two minutes left on even strength when left winger John Kemp brought the puck in on a two-on-one. MSU defensemen Ben Youds dropped down and deflected Kemp’s shot over the glass.
MSU had its best chance to score with a minute left when Youds fed Thompson on the doorstep, but UNO goalie Josh Faulkner was able to get in front of Thompson’s shot.
“We had a number of opportunities to put the puck on net, but we just tended to shoot the puck wide,” Jutting said.
MSU got on the board first, near the midway point of the first period, when Adam Mueller worked the puck out of the corner. Justin Jokinen took the puck and let it go from the left circle past Faulkner.
“It was a great play by Adam and I just had to walk in and shoot,” Jokinen said.
“Justin’s game has gotten better the past three games and he had an even better game tonight,” Jutting said.
MSU’s power play, which notched five goals on eight chances at Bemidji State last weekend, went scoreless on four UNO penalties Friday.
UNO used its first opportunity with the man advantage to tie the game with the first period winding down. UNO’s power play unit worked the puck in on MSU goaltender Phil Cook and forced a scrum at the goalmouth. Matt Ambroz was finally able to whack the puck past Cook and knot the game at one. Terry Broadhurst and Rich Purslow assisted on the goal.
Cook then robbed UNO’s Dan Swanson, who tried to tip a centering pass past him a half minute later.
For the second Friday game in a row, Cook came up big for MSU. He stopped 25 shots against UNO, one week after allowing one goal on 30 shots at Bemidji State.
“I have a lot more confidence in my game after getting one full game under my belt,” said Cook, who owns a 1.15 goals against average and has stopped 95.7 percent of the shots he faced this year. “I just try to keep the same consistency as I had last weekend.”
Added Jutting, “He’s a good goaltender and he played very well again tonight.”
Cook is in a three-way battle for the starting spot in net. He’s shown consistency in his past two starts, something that could help win the job.
“It’s very competitive,” Cook said. “Every practice is like a try-out for every weekend. The coaches want consistency and that’s what they’re looking for.”
As of Friday night, Jutting wasn’t sure who will start in goal when the teams meet again at 7:05 CT, tonight in Omaha.
After tonight, MSU (9-8-2) returns home to face RIT at 7:37 p.m., on New Years Day. UNO (8-7-3) will face No. 2 Denver in the Denver Cup at 7:05 p.m., Jan. 1.
“I think some people tend to look ahead,” Hastings said. “I don’t think either team had their best efforts tonight.”