OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha won its final nonconference game of the regular season on Saturday, defeating Quinnipiac 4-1 in a New Year’s Eve matinee at CenturyLink Center.
Plenty of scoring chances and an early parade to the penalty box saw the tilt rise quickly to a boil. Once UNO took a commanding 3-1 lead late in the second period through a shorthanded goal from Matt White, however, the Mavericks slowed the game down and stifled the Bobcat attack.
QU cut UNO’s scoring chances down almost by half on Saturday compared to what the Bobcats allowed in Friday’s 2-2 tie. The Mavericks didn’t need so much firepower in the rematch, though, and UNO goaltender Ryan Massa stopped 25 shots to thwart the chances the visitors created.
“You never know if you’re going to have a tremendous amount of energy after a game like last night’s,” UNO assistant coach Mike Hastings said. “We had a lot of guys that played last night probably too many minutes, but I thought the leadership of our team really showed today.”
UNO, looking to win the weekend series and pick up a quality nonconference victory and boost its standing in the national rankings, wasted little time getting on the board on Saturday.
Eleven seconds into a power play in the game’s opening two minutes, Maverick forward Jayson Megna fired a wrist shot from the left hash marks that beat QU goaltender Eric Hartzell through a gap high stick-side, giving the host club an early 1-0 lead.
Many more penalties came in the afternoon’s opening period, and so did a second power-play goal, again with the goal coming just after the 5-on-4 began.
QU tied the game just three seconds into a power play of its own. Bobcat center Connor James won an attacking-zone faceoff and fed the puck back to defenseman Zack Currie, who wristed a long shot glove-side past Massa.
UNO regained its lead before the period was out, though. Brent Gwidt was credited with the even-strength goal, beating Hartzell to the far post from the left circle.
UNO later doubled its lead late in the second period on an inspired shorthanded effort from White.
With the Mavericks having just cleared their zone during a QU power play, White split two Bobcat defenders in the attacking zone, latched onto a long Johnnie Searfoss pass and slid the puck under Hartzell as the goalie went down to try and make the save.
UNO then scored a fourth goal, with Searfoss poking it into an empty Bobcat net 18:50 into the third period, long after the game had effectively ceased to be as a contest.
Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold was less than pleased with his team’s performance on Saturday. He thought it was an improved effort on what QU did in Friday’s game, but he had also wanted to see better execution from his team all over the ice.
“I thought we played a little bit better than yesterday, but I just thought again that we were sloppy, lacked energy and we were mentally and physically tired at times,” said Pecknold. “The [holiday] break did not do us well.
“But I give [UNO] credit. They played hard, they deserved to win today and they were the better team. Massa was really good in net and made some huge saves, and I thought he was the key to the game tonight.”
Saturday’s game signals the end of regular-season nonconference play for both UNO (10-8-4, 7-4-3 WCHA) and Quinnipiac (11-7-4, 3-4-3 ECAC).
The Mavericks’ next game is on Jan. 13 at home to top-ranked Minnesota-Duluth, while QU is on the road again next weekend to visit ECAC rivals Yale and Brown.