College Hockey:
Faulkner stops 27 as Nebraska-Omaha sweeps Wisconsin

Ambroz nets game-winner in third

— Nebraska-Omaha kept alive on Saturday its slim hopes of a WCHA regular season championship in the team’s first campaign in the league, defeating seventh-ranked Wisconsin, 4-3, at Qwest Center to cap a weekend sweep of the visiting Badgers.

No. 16 UNO (18-10-2, 14-6-2 WCHA), now riding a four-game winning streak, looked poised to replicate the 4-1 pasting it handed the Badgers on Friday night, taking a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead into Saturday’s final period. The host side had dominated large parts of both games in the series, and the fact that the Mavericks weren’t having too much difficulty breaking the Badgers defense down gave UNO confidence in bunches.

In fact, when the Mavericks’ Matt Ambroz beat UW goaltender Scott Gudmandson through the keeper’s five-hole for the senior forward’s 16th goal of the season and second on Saturday 3:55 into the final frame, most of the 10,111 fans in attendance were ready to celebrate what national polls would have onlookers believe were back-to-back upsets.

Just then however, the Badgers’ power play, which was 0-for-9 heading into Saturday’s third period, sprang to life and catapulted UW back into the game.  UNO committed the frame’s only two penalties, and the Mavericks were made to pay first through a redirected goal in the slot from UW forward Jordy Murray, his second tally of the weekend, at 12:11.

Just 4:09 later, UW cut what once looked like a comfortable lead for UNO down to just a single goal. Murray’s linemate Craig Smith’s 16th goal of the season did the trick, his long shot from the top of the left point sailing through traffic in front and beating the screened UNO goaltender John Faulkner high glove-side.

Shaken but not defeated, UNO’s defense clamped down during the final 3:40 of the game following Smith’s goal, and despite UW coach Mike Eaves pulling Gudmandson for a sixth attacker, Faulkner and the Mavericks defense in front of him finally shut the proverbial door.

UNO coach Dean Blais cut an understandably relieved figure after Saturday’s game. With as close as the WCHA race is this season, UNO is seemingly as close to winning the regular season title as it is to entering a dogfight just to clinch home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Because of that, Blais was pleased to see his team not only open up a six-point lead over UW in the league table, but also get that much closer to gaining home ice in the Mavericks’ first postseason in the WCHA.

“It’s good to win obviously, with what’s at stake and Wisconsin being the team that they are,” Blais said. “This doesn’t guarantee us home ice, but it really sets the table.”

Where his own team was concerned, Eaves was pleased with his team’s ability to stage its comeback bid on Saturday night, and he heaped plenty of praise on Blais after Blais’ 300th win as a collegiate coach and 38th with UNO as he nears the end of his second season in Omaha.

“Maybe because we were put into a desperate situation, we had to get it done,” Eaves said. “And our guys made some good plays in the end there. As a result, we scored some goals, and we had some opportunities, even when we pulled our goalie.

“But Dean knows exactly what he’s doing here, and everywhere he’s been, he’s had the same formula. He’s going to get kids that are going to work hard and are going to understand that, and he’s going to get kids to play together, and as he gets his kind of player here in terms of talent and draws those kids here, they’re well on their way to being a big-time program and doing things.”

The Badgers (19-10-3, 11-9-2) now return to Madison, Wis. to prepare for a very important series at home against arch-rival Minnesota. UNO, on the other hand, is on the road next weekend for a two-game set at Alaska-Anchorage.

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  • bill

    UNO looked like a pack of dachshunds flushing the badgers out of there hole!!!! SWEEP SWEEP SWEEP!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I sure would like to know why UNO’s chances of a WCHA regular season championship are “slim”. What a goofy comment that is.

    If UNO keeps winning, the whole thing will take care of itself. I wouldn’t call our chances likely, but they are hardly what I’d call slim. There are 8 other teams in the league that would gladly trade places with us right now.

    Yeah, slim if it weren’t for who we have upcoming on the schedule, namely, the team we are tied for third with and the team that is ahead of us in 2nd. And, oh yeah, we split our 4 games with the team currently in first including administering the worst beating ever put on them in their current arena and the worst overall since 1992!

    Since our win last night against Wisconsin was dubbed an upset in USCHO’s headline about last night’s game, I suppose that tonight’s win was, too, huh?

    Yeah, we really suck out there while we’re leading the nation in shots on goal and in shots on goal versus shots given up differential. Average teams going nowhere do that all the time. Yeah, our goaltender leads the nation in shutouts with 6. So what if he has taken a shutout into the 3rd period 12 times? Must all be a fluke, right?

    Wisconsin looked for all the world like exactly what it was. A team that had exactly one win against an opponent with a winning record this season. That’s the way they came to town and that’s the way they left it.

    To me, they looked like almost an exact carbon copy of St. Cloud State–with a better goaltender (who we made look pretty mortal, anyway). Wonder how they liked playing in front of hostile crowds the size they subject their opponents to at their barn for a change? Weekend attendance approaching 26,000 at the Qwest!

    Shame on the Badgers for going out of their way to police up all the brooms on the ice right after the final horn sounded tonight before they’d shake hands by throwing them back into the stands or down the tunnel. Made you look like sore losers, much.

    O.K., rant over. That said, I’m getting real tired of having our team get dissed.

    • Suture1

      RB how about a little grace? UNO does have a good team. I get the feeling you are clammoring for some respect….I would just give that a rest. UNO could very well win the WCHA this year but I don’t think they will strictly based on remaining schedule. Of the top 4 teams (UND,DU,UNO,UMD) I think the Sioux have the easiest schedule. But, as Wiscy just learned, there really is no team in the WCHA…save 1 or 2 teams…where you can count on a win or sweep. But, as you said, let’s just see how things play out. With Dean Blais as your coach the days of looking for respect will be short lived….he is a proven champion and can build a hockey program like nobody else. Good luck down the road……but as a Sioux homer I have to tell you I am hoping someone picks off UNO before they get to UND…:)

      • BJ

        Suture1 – Nicely said – I didn’t thing the article “dissed” UNO and being a UNO season ticket holder since day one I think we need to earn respect and I think we are doing that game by game. We need to win the games we are supposed to win and we have had trouble doing that this year (Quinnipiac, Bemidji) but we have also demonstrated we can play with the big boys -

        I also agree that we have the roughest road from hear on out but the boys have an outside shot –

      • bill

        sacred to play UNO in the final five huh? well you should be!!!!

    • WCHA

      No one “dissed” UNO in the first place. You sound like a disgruntled Gopher fan. I’ve read a lot of your comments on these posts and you’re making yourself and your school look bad

  • Maverick Bob

    If you look at NoDak’s schedule the rest of the way you’ll see why our chances are slim. They would really have to choke to not finish the regular season on top. Now, the playoffs are another matter…

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