OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha rarely struggled in its Maverick Stampede semifinal with Mercyhurst on Friday, beating the Lakers 5-1 at CenturyLink Center.
Fourteenth ranked UNO is favored to win this season’s edition of the Mavericks’ season-opening tournament, and the hosts looked the part on Friday. It only took just over five minutes for them to get a lead over the Lakers, and UNO seldom let up thereafter.
Just as he had in UNO’s exhibition victory over British Columbia last week, Maverick forward Brock Montpetit stole the show on Friday. His two goals against Mercyhurst, matching the two he scored against UBC, lifted the Mavericks for the second game running.
“He’s certainly putting the puck in the net,” Nebraska-Omaha head coach Dean Blais said of Montpetit’s early-season performance. “I think he had something like 12 goals last year, and it appears that line he’s on has a little bit of everything, and we’ll keep them together as long as it’s working.
“As soon as it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else, but if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Right now, it’s working.”
It worked early and often on Friday, with the line of Montpetit, Terry Broadhurst and Matt White responsible for UNO’s first and last goals of the night. The first didn’t take long, coming 5:03 into the game. White set Montpetit up with a smart centering pass from behind the net, and Montpetit beat MC goaltender Max Strang glove-side into the far corner of the net from close range.
The Mavericks went back to the dressing room up 1-0 after 20 minutes, and they doubled the lead almost immediately after coming back out onto the ice. Just 44 seconds into the second period, defenseman Michael Young ripped a shot from high in the left circle that beat Strang five-hole to give UNO a 2-0 lead.
UNO’s advantage grew even bigger later in the period. Freshman forward Josh Archibald scored his first collegiate goal at 12:39, beating Strang stick-side from down low at the near post.
The hosts started to look somewhat complacent in the third period, though, and UNO goaltender John Faulkner’s shutout bid ended with 9:14 left to play. Mercyhurst was starting to show very good puck movement in the UNO zone, and it paid off when Laker forward Grant Blakey pulled a goal back to make it 3-1.
The Lakers couldn’t cut into UNO’s lead any further, however, and the Mavericks scored twice more to truly put the game out of reach. A first goal of the season from Johnnie Searfoss and Montpetit’s second of the night did the trick.
Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin was quick to praise UNO’s effort on Friday.
“I thought UNO was obviously the better team here tonight,” he said. “I’m not shocked by that. I thought they were way more blue-collar than we were, and I thought we were too tentative. Whether that’s our youth or whatever the case may be, who knows, but we have to find a way to get better, and we have to find a way to get better quickly.”
The Lakers (0-1-0) will get a chance to do just that on Saturday afternoon when they face Atlantic Hockey rival Robert Morris in the Stampede consolation game. UNO (1-0-0) will play in the evening’s second game for the tournament title against Colgate.