OMAHA, Neb. — Sixth-ranked Bemidji States shot at earning a No. 1 regional seed in the NCAA Tournament remained very much alive on Friday as the Beavers downed future WCHA rival Nebraska-Omaha 3-1 at Qwest Center Omaha.
The host Mavericks (now 17-14-6) had plenty to play for as well, having come into this weeks USCHO.com poll at No. 19, thus placing themselves however delicately onto the bubble for postseason play. UNO had gone 7-2-1 in its last 10 games, and after knocking off then-No. 1 Miami on the road last weekend, the Mavericks seemed primed to carry their red-hot play into this weeks important non-conference series.
BSU (22-7-2) rarely looked cowered on Friday, though, and second period goals from forwards Matt Read and Jamie MacQueen proved to be the difference as the Beavers earned their first-ever win over UNO after four failed attempts, the last coming just over seven years ago.
We know (the Mavericks) and how good they are, BSU head coach Tom Serratore said about a UNO team that outshot the Beavers 25-17 on the night. You cant say enough about how we responded, and our guys emptied the tanks tonight.
UNO had almost been scoring for fun recently, averaging over four goals scored per game since Jan. 22, but the Beavers quickness on Friday kept the Mavericks potent offense relatively grounded. Whats more, BSUs collective ability to burst down both ends of the ice also benefited the Beavers offense in the game, as well.
Reads 17th goal of the season, coming at 2:40 of the second period, came after linemate Jordan George blocked a long — and, it appeared, offside — shot from a UNO defenseman before zooming in the opposite direction on a 2-on-1 rush with Read.
As George barreled deep into the UNO zone, he fed a cross-ice pass to Read, who then scored past UNO goaltender Jeremie Dupont from just outside the goalmouth to double the College Hockey America regular season champions lead.
MacQueen then appeared to put the game on ice with six minutes left in Fridays middle frame, skating uncontested into the slot in the UNO zone before beating Dupont with a vicious wrist shot that rang the inside of the nets frame before crossing the goal line.
That was the difference in the game, when he put that away, UNO head coach Dean Blais said about MacQueens eighth goal of the season. We were, I thought, outplaying them and outshooting them, and then we were down 2-0.
They didnt give us a whole lot, but we didnt give up a whole lot, either. Look at the shot chart from the second period, and they scored on both chances. They were opportunistic, and we werent.
Rich Purslow pulled a goal back for UNO 1:29 into the third period with an inch-perfect shot from the left point that found its way past BSU goaltender Dan Bakala. Purslows 13th goal of the campaign wasnt enough, however, and the Beavers senior forward Tyler Lehrke put the game away with a long-range empty-net goal with 28 seconds left on the clock.
Serratore wasnt short on general praise for his team following its victory on Friday, but he knew that his Beavers will have to step up their game if they want to sweep the weekend series when the two teams meet again on Saturday in Omaha.
UNO obviously had a territorial advantage in this game, and we dont want that to carry over into tomorrow, Serratore said. But we just have to be ready to respond again tomorrow. This is college hockey, and at this time of year, you have to treat every game like its a game seven in the Stanley Cup playoffs.