OMAHA, Neb. — Bemidji State senior forward Matt Read’s Herculean college career continued at speed on Saturday, with the Beaver talisman scoring two goals – including an overtime winner – in BSU’s 3-2 win over Nebraska-Omaha at Qwest Center.
Saturday’s season series finale between the two WCHA travel partners saw the visitors survive an early onslaught from No. 11 UNO, a team growing desperate to shake its recent skid of just one win in its last five games and only three in its last nine.
In a game of drastic momentum shifts though, Bemidji’s leading scorer made sure the Beavers took advantage of the night’s last one, beating Mavericks goaltender John Faulkner 52 seconds into the extra frame.
Read’s 14th goal of the season came following a three-on-two rush into the UNO zone, where linemate Ian Lowe unleashed a slap shot that Faulkner saved but couldn’t hold onto.
The rebound then came out to Read, BSU’s fourth player entering the zone, and the Beavers’ talisman slotted it home to give BSU its third win in four games against UNO this season, good for seven points from a possible eight, including a point from Friday’s 2-2 draw in Omaha.
“When you beat Nebraska-Omaha at (their) home, your confidence shoots through the roof,” Read said, “But I thought I was pretty lucky tonight. On both of my goals, my linemates did everything.
“There was a great pass from Emil (Billberg) on the first one, and on the second one, we had a three-on-two rush and I was the fourth man in the zone, and Ian took a great slap shot, and there was a big rebound, and I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot in the right time and I just buried it in the end.”
Read’s first goal of the night at 10:16 of the second period served as the Beavers’ response to a solid opening 30 minutes from UNO, which took the lead after Matt Ambroz’s 13th goal of the season 6:14 into the game.
The Mavericks then held court through to near the halfway point of the game, but a blown two-on-one opportunity from Johnnie Searfoss and Ryan Walters midway through proved the impetus that finally stirred BSU into action. Read’s first goal, followed by defenseman Matt Carlson’s second goal of the campaign just under three minutes later, was no less than the Beavers deserved after finally fighting their way back into the game.
Walters did redeem himself 4:46 into the third period with a backhanded shot from the left point that beat BSU goaltender Dan Bakala to bring the game back to level pegging. Whereas Friday’s game rarely looked as though it would see a winning goal however, Read’s game-winner in Saturday’s first and only minute of overtime put paid to history repeating itself.
“This was a very gratifying win,” Beavers coach Tom Serratore said after the game. “Our guys had a very difficult first period where Omaha really took it to us, and I thought we were very fortunate to get out of there only down 1-0.
“The game could’ve been over in that first period, but Danny (Bakala) really played well and we were lucky he kept the score down before we finally started to take over.”
His counterpart, UNO coach Dean Blais, thought that his own team had put in an improved performance on Saturday from the effort the Mavericks put in in Friday’s 2-2 tie, but that a combination of missed opportunities, untimely penalties and Read’s lethal presence caused UNO’s undoing in the series finale.
“I thought we played a better game tonight. Certainly with the puck we made things happen, but we missed a couple of open nets, and you can’t take three straight penalties at the end of the second period.
“When we got down 2-1, it was very much a ‘here we go again’ sort of thing, but we fought back in the third period and scored a goal to tie the game. I thought the momentum was ours then, especially with the crowd and everything else, but in the overtime, their fourth guy beat our fourth guy back into our zone, and you can’t let Matt Read shoot the puck. He’s too good of a player.”
BSU (9-11-2, 5-9-2 WCHA) is now unbeaten in five of its last six games, and the Beavers will hope to continue on with their good vein of form next weekend at home against St. Cloud State. Struggling UNO (12-8-2, 9-5-2), on the other hand, faces a steep challenge next weekend as Blais faces a long-awaited homecoming away to second-ranked North Dakota, a school he led to national championships in 1997 and 2000.