OMAHA, Neb. — Colgate denied No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha a four-peat in its own tournament on Saturday, defeating the Mavericks, 4-3, in the Maverick Stampede final at CenturyLink Center.
The Raiders (2-0-0) looked poised to pull the upset right from the start, and the unranked visitors stayed with and bested UNO (1-1-0) over the course of the game.
Colgate also exhibited a greater killer instinct than the Mavericks, and late goals in the first and second periods — the second in the form of freshman Joe Wilson’s game-winning goal — proved deadly daggers.
Saturday’s first period saw both offenses roar out of the chute, and goals soon started flying in. Colgate forward Austin Smith opened the scoring, beating UNO goaltender John Faulkner with a short-handed goal just 1:46 into the game.
UNO countered with two goals of its own, with the strikes coming 31 seconds apart. Forward Terry Broadhurst got UNO started, drawing the Mavericks level at 4:34 with a goal coming at the end of a three-on-two rush.
Freshman Josh Archibald then gave UNO a 2-1 lead, kicking the puck out of a scrum behind the net and taking it back up himself before beating Raiders goalie Eric Mihalik low at the near side to cap a great individual effort.
The hosts nearly got out of Saturday’s first period with their lead intact.
Emphasis on ‘nearly.’
In the frame’s final throes, Colgate defenseman Spiro Goulakos sent a centering pass across Faulkner’s goalmouth to Raiders forward Nick Prockow. Prockow had time to make a play, and he deked past the UNO goalie before slotting the puck home with 29 seconds to go in the frame.
UNO responded well, as Broadhurst restored parity 2:21 into the second period with his second goal of the game. The Mavericks offense went dark after that however, and Colgate quickly took over.
Raiders forward Kurtis Bartliff leveled the game at 3-3 7:53 into the period, swatting home an airborne puck inside Faulkner’s crease. Colgate struck once more in the second period.
This time, again, lethal timing played a big role.
A fourth goal had looked in the works for a while in that period for the visitors, and they got it with two minutes to go. Raiders forward Chris Wagner and linemate Smith served as tic and tac entering the UNO zone before Smith fed Wilson, the toe, with the newcomer having time and space to beat Faulkner.
“Joe’s a great player, and that whole line just seems to be very comfortable together already.” Colgate coach Don Vaughan said. “I think the older guys have brought Joe and the other younger guys along quickly, which is a really positive thing.
“Joe’s a weapon for us, and all of our higher-end guys are, but they’ve got a great supporting cast playing with them, too.”
Saturday’s final period came and went without either team adding to the scoreline. Colgate shut the potent UNO offense down very well in the third period, and the Mavericks rarely looked a serious threat to tie the game back up.
“Especially in that last ten minutes, our bench was really focused, probably about as focused as it’s been in a while,” Vaughan said. “We’re coming off of a really challenging regular season last year. We had a great run in the playoffs though, and I think we’ve built up a lot of confidence since then.
“That confidence is something that’s helpful for games like this, because good results in these games will help us out a lot in the long run.”
Vaughan’s counterpart on Saturday, UNO coach Dean Blais, was quick to praise Colgate for its ability to close out the game and stop the Mavericks’ Stampede title streak at three.
“You have to give Colgate all the credit in the world,” Blais said. “They didn’t panic in that third period, and they played a great road game. They got the puck in and out, and obviously with their seven seniors, leadership starts at the top, and they certainly had it.
“We made a few mistakes, and they capitalized and were opportunistic. I didn’t think they carried the play that much, but they did what they had to do to win the game.”
Colgate now returns home to prepare for a big home series next weekend against No. 2 Miami. UNO, on the other hand, takes its first road trip of the season next weekend, with the Mavericks taking part in the Alaska Goal Rush tournament.