OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha completed a sweep of visiting Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday, defeating the Seawolves 3-1 at CenturyLink Center.
UNO (3-3-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) carried a three-game losing streak into the weekend, but a pair of wins in the Mavericks’ first conference series of the season pushed them back on track.
The Seawolves (3-2-1, 0-2-0) rode a four-game unbeaten streak into their first-ever trip to Omaha. For the second night running however, timely UNO goals proved to be lethal.
UNO had jumped out to an early lead in Friday’s 4-1 win, but the Mavericks couldn’t repeat the feat on Saturday. Instead, in the rematch, UAA quickly went on the ascendancy and scored an early go-ahead goal of its own.
Seconds after UNO killed off an early penalty on Saturday, the Seawolves pulled ahead. UAA forward Mitch Bruijsten got the guests on the board 3:21 into the game, barreling down the right point before cutting in and beating UNO goaltender John Faulkner low at the far post.
The hosts weren’t behind for long. Just 2:33 after Bruijsten put the visitors ahead, UNO forwards Matt White and Alex Hudson made a two-on-one rush into the Seawolves zone count, with White wristing the puck past UAA keeper Chris Kamal from the right faceoff dot.
The Mavericks then took the lead for good 12:33 into the second period. UNO defenseman Andrej Sustr redirected a long Josh Archibald shot past Kamal for the defenseman’s second goal of the weekend and, more importantly, Saturday’s game-winner.
Sustr, a lanky sophomore and by far the tallest player in the history of UNO’s program, played a key role offensively both nights. He scored early in Friday’s win, and his goal on Saturday proved even bigger.
The UAA series saw him score as many goals as he had all through his freshman season, and Mavericks coach Dean Blais was happy to see Sustr step up at both ends of the ice.
“He’s the type of defenseman that the NHL loves,” Blais said. “And he gets a lot of ice time (on the blue line), but what he’s done is improve his feet and hands so that he’s getting shots off quicker, and that’s all (down to) timing. Obviously when you’re growing that fast, and when you’re 6-foot-8, It takes longer for everything to catch up, and he’s still growing into himself.”
UNO added an insurance goal when freshman forward Jayson Megna scored his first collegiate goal 9:02 into Saturday’s third period.
Seawolves coach Dave Shyiak appeared understandably disappointed after the series finale. He was pleased with UAA’s start to Saturday’s game, but felt that his team moved away from playing its brand of hockey as the night went on.
“We want to play the same way for a whole 60 minutes,” Shyiak said. “We don’t want to have to change (the way we play) during a game.
“I thought getting the first goal was good, and I thought that for a good portion of the first period we played our game. Then, in the second and third periods, we just turned the puck over, got out-competed and lost puck battles.
“We’ve got to learn from this. It’s a tough two losses to start league play, but we’re a young team and it’s a long season ahead of us. Learn from it, turn the page, and move on.”
UAA and UNO swap host-and-guest duties next weekend, with the Seawolves welcoming No. 8 Minnesota to Anchorage while the Mavericks visit Wisconsin for a two-game set.