OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha and Quinnipiac played out what in places was a very entertaining draw on Friday, finishing 2-2 in front of 9,117 at CenturyLink Center.
UNO (9-8-4, 7-4-2 WCHA) and QU (11-6-4, 3-4-3 ECAC) had both been idle since the front half of December, but most of the resulting rust fell away early on Friday. Both teams looked up for the game from its beginning and only missed chances prevented either side from hogging the spoils.
UNO started the brightest on Friday, but as the first period wore on, the visitors began to hit their stride. The Bobcats then opened the scoring near the halfway point of the opening frame.
It was a lovely goal that put QU ahead. Bobcats forward Jeremy Langlois was hauled down by a UNO player at the side boards in the attacking zone, but Langlois was still able to push a long centering feed to linemate Russell Goodman, who buried a wrist shot past Maverick goaltender John Faulkner at the far post.
Faulkner was slow getting across his crease on the goal, but he was then done a favor when UNO neutralized Goodman’s strike later in the period. Maverick forward Matt White did the honors, taking a centering pass from Johnnie Searfoss before roofing a shot past QU keeper Eric Hartzell at 14:04.
The night’s second period was less entertaining than the first, falling into lulls at times with the two teams looking as though they were simply wearing each other down ahead of a more furious finish to the game.
Late in that period, though, coach Rand Pecknold’s QU club made the breakthrough it sought. With 50 seconds left before the horn, Yuri Bouharevich took a centering pass into the slot and fired through a screen past Faulkner to regain the lead for the guests.
The Bobcats’ 2-1 lead didn’t last, however, as UNO forward Ryan Walters pulled the Mavericks level with 8:18 left in regulation. Linemate Zahn Raubenheimer had seen his initial shot from the right hash marks blocked, but the puck came to Walters, and Walters fired home past a sprawling Hartzell.
Neither club managed to score again in the time remaining after Walters’ leveler.
It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for UNO’s program, with senior Alex Hudson being dismissed from the team and head coach Dean Blais and freshman Josh Archibald leaving temporarily to take part in the IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta. Mavericks assistant coach Mike Hastings, however, was proud of the way his team responded Friday to its recent adversity.
“It was an opportunity tonight for us to try and please some people,” Hastings said. “It was great to see the [amount of] fans in the building tonight and the guys didn’t disappoint [in terms of] their effort.
“You’ve got to give the guys a lot of credit for, one, coming back and tying it at 2-2 and then just not quitting. They’re a good hockey team. There’s a reason they’re where they’re at in the Pairwise and we’re going to be in a battle again tomorrow.”
The two teams will close out their weekend series with a New Year’s Eve matinee on Saturday afternoon in Omaha. Both teams will be hoping to up their games further on Saturday and win the series and Pecknold in particular wasn’t shy in saying what he’ll be looking for from his Bobcats in the rematch.
“The biggest thing I’m looking for tomorrow is for our team to perform better,” Pecknold said. “We had our moments today, and the second goal in particular was great, but tomorrow needs to be better. Tomorrow, we need our guys to put in more and have a bit more pride in the Quinnipiac sweaters they’re wearing.”