College Hockey:
Nebraska-Omaha topples Wisconsin

State attendance record set in upset win

— Nebraska-Omaha had for months billed Friday’s home game against Wisconsin as a showcase evening for the program, and when 15,137 fans—the most to ever attend a hockey game in the state—packed Qwest Center, the Mavericks needed to have their A-game on show.

And, before too long, it was.

Seventh-ranked Wisconsin controlled Friday’s opening period and ended it up 1-0, but No. 18 UNO’s class shined through in the night’s final 40 minutes. It was a quick pair of second period Maverick goals and two more strikes in the third that ensured a 4-1 victory for the host side on a night where a lesser team may have wilted under the sense of expectation from a school-record crowd.

“It was amazing, coming out and seeing that crowd,” UNO forward and captain Joey Martin said of the experience following Friday’s victory.  “They were energetic all night, and once we got a goal, they gave us momentum and we went from there.”

The pace of Friday’s game certainly fit with the sense of occasion in the building, too. UNO’s school-record crowd wanted to see the two highly-potent offenses bombing forward at will and creating plenty quality scoring chances, and, to that end, neither team disappointed.

UNO had its chances to take an early lead, particularly with forward Brock Montpetit beating UW goaltender Scott Gudmandson but not the frame of the Badger netminder’s cage at the end of a 2-on-1 opportunity in the UW zone. Apart from that, Matt White came closest to getting
UNO on the board in the first period, racing in on Gudmandson on a breakaway but getting torn down from behind by Badger defenseman John Ramage before White could get a shot off.

Neither chance ended with a goal, then, and a UNO team with reason to feel unlucky became all the more unfortunate with just over five minutes left to go in Friday’s opening period.

Foiled on plenty of its own scoring chances up to then, it was UW that finally drew first blood at 14:54. Badger forward Jordy Murray did the honors, taking a centering pass from linemate Mark Zengerle and ripping a shot from the left point past Maverick goalie John Faulkner for Murray’s 15th goal of the season.

The Badgers went back to their dressing room after the first period with momentum on their side, but Friday’s middle frame belonged to UNO. It didn’t take the Mavericks long to level the score, either, with Joey Martin firing a wrist shot from 10 feet under Gudmandson’s right arm and into the net for a power-play marker just 81 seconds in.

Less than a minute and a half then went by before UNO bagged what turned out to be the game-winning goal. A shot from the left point by freshman forward Johnnie Searfoss hit the top of one of Gudmandson’s shoulders and bounced high enough in the air that it gave Searfoss enough time to skate around the back of the net to the far post, where he had acres of space to shoot at past the out-of-position Badger goalie.

Maverick forward Alex Hudson then doubled UNO’s lead 1:41 into the third period.  The junior’s ninth goal of the campaign was one to remember, with Hudson picking up the puck at UNO’s blue line and barreling clear down the ice with only Ramage to beat before deking and surgically beating Gudmandson through the keeper’s five-hole.

UW head coach Mike Eaves talked about Hudson’s goal after the game, saying that that goal—as well as Searfoss’—made the Badgers rue missed chances that didn’t find their way past Faulkner.

“It’s 2-1, and then early in the third, it looks like Rammer got shot from the upper deck and falls, and their guy goes and makes a nice play and it’s 3-1,” Eaves said.  “And then they started pulling back people. We had some chances, but it came down to moments of truth with the puck tonight, and we weren’t as good as we needed to be.”

Rich Purslow, linemate of Martin and White, finally put the game to bed with 33 seconds to go, taking an unselfish pass from Martin on a 2-on-1 towards the empty UW net before slotting home for his ninth goal of the season.

Speaking after the game, Hudson discussed the Maverick players’ reaction to the size of the crowd, and how UNO was able to overcome early jitters before taking over Friday’s game.

“We had a lot of emotion coming out, and I think it took us a little to settle in,” Hudson said of Friday’s opening period.  “I think that’s just because when you have that many people and you see that, you can’t help it—your adrenaline’s going. But once we got settled in and kind of got into our game, it worked out for us.

“We like to play against teams that have skill and are trying to make plays, and that’s what we’re trying to do out there. I think we definitely enjoyed playing that style of game against a good team and in the atmosphere we played in.”

UNO head coach Dean Blais said that he and his coaching staff made sure the Mavericks knew throughout the week that they would experience the sort of atmosphere they played in on Friday night. He then hinted that that preparation paid off on the night, with UNO able to play their game while using the enormous crowd’s energy to the Mavericks’ benefit.

“The players were ready for this type of crowd every day,” Blais said about the team’s lead-up to Friday’s series opener.  “We kind of told them what they’re trying to do and how many tickets were sold, and when it finally hit between 14,000 and 15,000, the players were fired up, but when we have that crowd, you’ve got to yell more and can’t get caught up in emotion, but we our played the game we wanted to.”

UNO (17-10-2, 13-6-2 WCHA) and UW (19-9-3, 11-8-2) conclude their weekend series on Saturday in Omaha.

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  • Anonymous

    As I posted in the WCHA blog on this web site, it’s an insult in the extreme that that was any sort of upset.

    Wisconsin has NEVER been ahead of UNO in the conference standings the entire season!

    Further, Wisconsin has exactly ONE win against a team with a winning record this year, against Minnesota-Duluth on January 15th.

    What they are doing ranked #7 is completely and totally beyond me. They have beaten exactly nobody.

    Meanwhile, over the last 365 days days, in various series/games against Miami of Ohio, North Dakota, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Michigan, UNO has amassed a 9-5-0 record. Out of those 14 games, only 4 were home games, too.

    I’m thinking of a word, and, that word is “scoreboard”.

    • Jdorf40

      Those are interesting facts. I completely agree with you. But being in the WCHA now, you’re going to have to get used to seeing Wisconsin and Minnesota ranked higher than they usually should be. I’m not sure if you remember this or not, but a few years ago Wisconsin hosted a playoff regional with a sub .500 record. It was pretty ridiculous. But that’s how the “experts” work. They always want to put teams up in the rankings based off of tradition and previous reputations. It’s kind of weak if you ask me. I’ve watched UNO play a few times this year and they’re not only a very good team, but they’re young. Couple that with the genius that is Dean Blais and I think you guys are definitely on the way to being one of college hockeys elite, if you’re not already.
      Signed – Sioux fan :-)

      • Anonymous

        I guess your point is what I was really complaining about. They are #7 on past rep alone. I think there are at least as many problems with hockey polls as with college football polls, if not more. The opportunities voters have to even see the teams they are voting on is far less. Further, there is also vastly less print information on teams as well. The USCHO WCHA bloggers comments about this series (where they both predicted a Wisconsin sweep) are fairly bereft, really, of any tangible evidence that Wisconsin is really better than UNO, and they both talked ad nauseum about UNO’s “offensive inconsistencies” despite the fact that UNO leads the nation in shots on goal, for example, or that they have the biggest differential in the country between shots taken and shot allowed. If that’s inconsistency, what is everybody else? Even if we are good, we have to then fight for our “right” to be good?

        Ahh, well. When the dust settles we’ll see whose left standing. Keep winning and this all takes care of itself, I guess.

        • Suture1

          Amen RB, when the dust settles the team(s) that are left is all that matters. You are also right about the manner in which these polls are obtained. Do you really think the eastern schools watch ANY WCHA (or CCHA for that matter) games during the year? Conversely, do we see any of their games? So, the whole “poll” situation is based on opinions and hearsay as much as productivity of any given team. Another thing that kills me is when a “good” team from any conference loses a game. UND split with Minnesota and UNO this year. Each time the Sioux fell in the polls. UM is down this year but they are still a very good hockey team. As I have mentioned earlier, UNO is a very good hockey team. Splitting on the road or at home happens in the WCHA. I just hate how it triggers so much commentary about how one team is not as good as they think because they split (as opposed to a sweep). It is the entire body of work over the entire season that matters. Do I care that UNO lost to an Alabama team? No, it means NOTHING. What matters is that UNO, UND, Denver, etc… can all play excellent hockey over an entire season. Who ends up on top will be the team that is best at the end and has the moxy to put it to the other team at tourney time. If I recall correctly I do not think the Sioux have won any of their nat’l championships strictly based on there regional placement in the national tourney. If you are good enough to get to the Frozen Four you will do it regardless of where you are seated or placed. Does anyone else agree with me?

  • TheRealBucky

    It’s really hard to say any thing about rankings based on who people have beat because there is always a flip side. Wisconsin wouldn’t be ranked so high if they would have lost to Alabama-Huntsville, gone 0-3-1 against Bemidji State and gotten swept by Quinnipiac. Beat the teams you should beat and you get to move up in the rankings, it’s just the way it works.

    The better comment is that it’s an insult in the way that setting a record attendance at the Quest center is a big deal. UNO basically gave away these tickets the whole week to try to pack the arena to the brim… close but not quite. Twice this year alone Wisconsin has had a higher attendence at the Kohl center.

    • bill

      15 bucks a ticket is not giving them away! did u buy a ticket or get a free one!!

    • Jdorf40

      Who cares if they gave them away? If the people went to the game regardless of whether they paid for their ticket or not, they were obviously interested in watching the game. How much people pay for their ticket has no relevance. Unless of course you want to start making the student body pay for their tickets too. Then I suppose you could make an apples to apples assessment of how many tickets were “sold.”

    • Suture1

      Bucky, I am a Sioux fan and I think your comments are feeble. UNO is BUILDING a college hockey program….and they are WELL on their way. If their fans pay nothing or they pay $30 what does it matter? Who really cares when, at the end of the day, they are packing in over 15,000 fans! Maybe they pay nothing today….tomorrow UNO hockey will be charging top dollar….again, does it really matter? I have watched all 4 Sioux-UNO games this year and I can tell you this team is as good as any in the country. Dean Blais is arguably the best coach in college hockey so there is only one way for this program to go. So, Bucky, you can squabble over attendence and meantime UNO will be well on their way to their first national championship. I just hope it’s not this year…..I am still thinking the Sioux have a chance to get to the Frozen Four. But, if they don’t it wouldn’t surprise me if they are taken out by UNO. I think it is great we have another strong team joining the WCHA…..regardless of how they get their fans past the gates….:)

      • Siouxbetcha

        I do think the RealBucky has a piont. You can’t go out and split with the best teams in the country, then lose to the most pathetic team in AH and expect to be taken seriously as a national contender. Any team can have a great night, but the teams at the top of the rankings are the ones who play with consistency throughout the season.

        • bill

          so when the sioux lost to uno and then minnesota gets sweept at home to uno! cause the way you make it sound is that uno is pathetic if so what does that say about n dakota and minnesota and wisconson!WCHA just better get used to the new traditional powerhouse known as UNO UNO UNO!!!!!!!!!

          • Siouxbetcha

            bill, if you set down you beer and read my post a little closer, in no way did I say UNO is pathetic. As a die hard Sioux fan, I watched first hand how unpathetic UNO is. Restating my point, you can’t lose to the bottom feeders and expect to rise to the top. I don’t care what the winning pecentages of the teams UW beat, they’re taking out the trash and cleaning up against teams they are supposed to beat. It’s what good teams do.

        • BSU Beavers

          Did UNO lose to UAH? Yes. But they dominated play for the whole game and outshot the Chargers 59-18. They also had 2 goals disallowed in the 3rd period, one of which may have been a kick but one of which was a completely phantom call. Anyone who watches hockey knows that sometimes the best team doesn’t win. Losing to Huntsville was unfortunate for the Mavs but it does not say anything about the quality of the team. Watching the outcomes each week does not necessarily tell you anything about a team’s consistency throughout the season, as you say.

    • bill

      had UNO won those games you are talking about and you are looking at the number 1 team in the country!!!!

  • Jero003

    Rankings are perception, pairwise (and AQ) gets you seeded in March.

    The Regional sites were predetermined in 2008, were they not? Madison was a host site where UW was the 3rd seed and soundly beat WCHA Champs DU. NCAA attempts to populate the Regionals where there is the best geographical advantage to maximize attendance.

    As for this series, hardly an upset. A Blais run program is going to have more successful seasons than not.

    • Jero003

      Just a side, my comment regarding the 2008 Regional were a response to JDorf40 above.

      To expand on my comments about this series, UNO, as a program on the rise, gets victories like this validating their success. Thus, hardly an upset.

  • Saturdaymorningdelight

    Thats just 60 minutes out of a long season. Dont think for one second that one game or a couple wins gives UNO rights as a powerhouse…

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