College Hockey:
Read scores two as Bemidji State sweeps Nebraska-Omaha

Bakala stops 41

— Something became lost in translation for the Nebraska-Omaha hockey team this season when trying to stop Bemidji State’s transition offense.

That gap in the chain still remains, and it’s why UNO is now firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble.

The No. 12 Mavericks needed a win over the Beavers on Saturday to try and stay alive in this WCHA first-round, best-of-three playoff series. BSU had other ideas though, and it rode two goals from captain Matt Read en route to a 3-2 win at Qwest Center.

The Beavers (14-17-5) now advance to next week’s WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. UNO (21-15-2), whose only league bugaboo this season was BSU, now can only wait and hope that its current PairWise ranking holds long enough to see the Mavericks, as a lower seed than they’d hoped, into the national tournament.

Saturday’s game rarely felt dissimilar to Friday’s 4-2 victory for the Beavers, with UNO heavily outshooting BSU for the second time in as many nights. Again however, Beavers goaltender Dan Bakala stood on his head, and another Read masterclass compounded UNO’s woes.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for our team,” Read told reporters after the game. “All through the regular season, we kind of struggled a little bit, but this weekend, I thought we played a very good 120 minutes.

“It started with our back end with Bakala – ge played a solid week for us, but this is a huge accomplishment for us, and this was one of our goals at the start of the year: to make the Final Five.”

The Beavers fell behind for the only time on Saturday 9:32 into the game when UNO senior forward Rich Purslow took a pass from Alex Hudson at the far side of Bakala’s crease before stuffing the puck home.

The Mavericks lead didn’t last long, however. Only 2:02, in fact, with Read getting his 20th goal of the season on the power play via a long bomb from the blue line that beat twice-screened UNO goaltender John Faulkner, who couldn’t have seen either the shot as it was made or its trajectory on its way past him.

Jamie MacQueen then picked up his seventh goal of the season 8:15 into the second period, taking a feed from Ryan Cramer at one post and beating Faulkner at the other.

Later, Read finally put the series to bed with his second goal of the night coming 8:48 into the final frame.  UNO pulled a goal back through freshman forward Ryan Walters in the game’s final 10 seconds, but the Mavericks couldn’t manage an equalizer.

The win took BSU to 5-0-1 against UNO on the season, prompting Beavers coach Tom Serratore to try and describe how a BSU team that finished 10th in the WCHA continued to match up so favorably a league rival that finished third.

“The kids showed a lot of resiliency, and we played a heck of a third period,” Serratore said. “We had that lead, we built on that lead, and we just had a great third period.

“You know what, it’s bounces, luck, good goaltending. It’s a fine line between winning and losing, and for whatever reason, in these games, we’ve gotten the last bounces or the last break, and that’s what it is.”

On the other side of the dressing room divide, UNO coach Dean Blais, who was named in the week the WCHA Coach of the Year, was left after the game wondering what might have been and what, with some luck, still could be.

“The Minnesota guys, and as someone that’s seen it, you can’t really describe it when you’re playing in front of 20,000 fans, and just the whole experience of it all,” Blais said, describing what a trip to the Final Five would have meant for the UNO program.

“We wanted to get there so that the underclassmen can have that idea again next year, build on it and get to the NCAAs and win a game or two down there, but now it’s right back to, ‘OK, we’ve got another young team coming in next year with seven or eight more kids,’ but hopefully we’re not done yet. Hopefully, the right teams win and we get an NCAA bid.”

BSU is now set to face No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth next week during the Final Five’s curtain-raiser.

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  • Suture1

    Lincoln Jim, talk to me buddy…..talk to me….:)

  • LincolnJim

    we lost our series like Marto lost his toes. I guess coach Blais has to learn about winning without having a university administration turn a blind eye to anything involving school. Long shot/no shot we make the NCAAs but we had a good run.

    • #1 In The Nation

      Marto’s toes??? You mean, Kristo? I see you know tons about collegiate hockey. NOT!

      Let’s keep the topic about hockey, okay? Hmmmmmm, maybe you’re not wanting to talk about getting SWEPT by an unranked team? There….. a jab back to consider.

      When it comes to tourneys anything can happen. Your talents must run deep, much more than just one line and a goalie. The outcome of this could be that UNO will match up, as a #4 seed, against Yale, Union, or Boston College right out of the chute. Hopefully, with all the hype they’ve displayed the past 6mo they can keep up strong play and show an east coast team what midwest teams are challenged with every week.

      • Siouxbetcha

        That could be a tough draw for a 1 seed, especailly on so much rest. I remember a Denver team won the NC after getting beat in the first round WCHA playoffs. The extra rest is sometimes better than maintaining a higher seed.

    • Suture1

      Lincoln Jim, let me tell you a couple things you might like hearing. First of all, UNO WILL BE in the NT. Second, Dean Blais himself said about 8 years ago that winning the McNaughton Cup and the Final Five…and….going on to win the NT is just about imposible. His point is that sometimes it just flat out wears out a WCHA team to obtain all of these goals. I think his comments were brilliant. Lastly, I played Div. I college hockey and I like to think I am a good judge of talent (IMHO) and I also like to think I can tell which teams play well together. I picked Carolina to reach the Stanley Cup a few years back after watching only the 2nd game of the season. My point is that I have seen UNO play and I am telling you they are right on the doorstep of greatness. If they get in the correct bracket I could see a UND/UNO final….and I am not kidding. That would be one hell of a game…don’t you think? Remember, Lincoln Jim, after the Final Five we all have to back our conference…..well….maybe not the Gophers….:) Prediction: UNO wins NT within 2 years. It’s not over yet Lincoln Jim, take it easy buddy…:) I do like your posts so I hope you do not disappear. I was just messin with you earlier right….:)

    • B.D.

      Um, what are you insinuating regarding Blais and school?

      Also, MARTO?

      Also, I think you MADE the NCAA series.

      Also, oh hell, thats enough….

  • Csitzman

    As a Beaver fan, I am very proud of what this team accomplished this weekend. And I must admit that UNO has a very talented team. They dominated the first period and and half and if not for the great skill (and luck) of Bakala and the Beavers defense, UNO could have and should have put this game away early. Bemidji took full advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves, but for the most part, UNO’s offense was in control for much of the game. It was not until the third period that Bemidji caught fire and took control of the game. No matter the outcome, it was a great game last night and I am glad I was able to make it to Omaha to see it.

    As a side note: I found the fans of UNO to be first class. Very nice and welcoming to me and my 7 year old son. They have a lot of pride in their team and it is obvious that they are building a first class hockey program at UNO. To the UNO nation: be proud, be strong!

  • Fred

    UNO STH here.

    Kudos to the Beavers for pulling out a win, no matter how much it hurts here in Omaha. During the year, when the puck took strange bounces into the opponent’s net for UNO goals, we cheered just the same, so those are the breaks that go both ways–puck luck. I was at both games and Bakala was outstanding in the BSU goal. But, to win you have to score against good goaltenders because that is what you will be facing in the tournament. UNO has played great at times, and found ways to lose to lesser teams at other times.

    One thing about UNO is that they have had very balanced scoring this year. I have seen games where all four lines got a goal. While they are graduating some of their good players who have been an integral part of this year’s success, they are still a relatively young team. With the new recruits coming in we hope that next year’s team will build on this and go on to another good season.

    Let’s hope they do get into the NCAA. One last shot for the seniors and a good experience for the players coming back. Either way, it’s been a good season with a lot of good hockey to watch in the WCHA–not that the CCHA is bad (I am, after all, a Michigan State grad and went to a lot of their games in the early ’80′s in the Ron Mason days.)

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