OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State played out a low-scoring but entertaining affair Friday, ending with honors even at 1-1 at CenturyLink Center.
UNO defenseman Bryce Aneloski scored with 3:40 remaining in regulation to neutralize a second period BSU goal from Radoslav Illo. The teams’ goaltenders were the real stars of the show, though, with UNO’s Ryan Massa and BSU’s Dan Bakala combining to make 64 saves.
“It was a great hockey game and tight defensively,” UNO head coach Dean Blais said. “We’re happy to get the one point out of it, considering we did it with less than five or six minutes to go.
“I don’t think we gave up a lot, but both goaltenders were the stars of the game. I thought it was a great game to watch. Up and down, good defense and some offensive chances here and there. Bemidji’s a hard team to play against, and with Bakala in there, he gives them a chance to win every game.”
The Beavers (12-12-3, 6-10-3 WCHA) have enjoyed much recent success when playing at UNO (12-10-5, 9-6-4), with BSU going 3-0-1 in the teams’ four meetings in Omaha last season. That run looked as though it was going to continue at speed on Friday, but Aneloski’s late goal forced the teams to settle for one point apiece on the night.
After a first period of half-chances and not much else, BSU finally opened the scoring early in the second.
Illo did the honors, firing from the left circle and sending the puck past Massa into the far top corner of the net 54 seconds into Friday’s middle frame.
At the other end of the ice, Bakala continued his recent mastery of UNO when on the Mavericks own ice. The Mavericks hardly struggled to get the puck into the Beaver zone, but Bakala kept frustrating them, putting together 24 saves over the night’s first 40 minutes.
Bakala continued keeping everything out until late into the third period, where UNO finally scored to force overtime.
With UNO looking ever more desperate as the clock wound down, Aneloski equalized for the hosts, sending a wrist shot from the slot through traffic low past the screened Beaver goalie with 3:40 remaining.
Aneloski’s goal was the last in the game, with neither side managing to score again in overtime.
“I thought it was a great 65-minute hockey game,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “Both goaltenders played really well, and Omaha could’ve converted a few times in the first period, and we could’ve.
“The bottom line is that there were a lot of scoring chances back and forth, and both goalies stood tall. It was a great game on the bench and I’m sure it was entertaining from the stands.”
UNO and BSU will close out their two-game series Saturday night in Omaha and Serratore said he expects more of the same in the series finale.
“I thought we had our foot on the gas pedal for 65 minutes and we were hard to play against, and so were they,” Serratore said. “I don’t think both teams will change much.
“We have to look at a few things on the power play – as does Omaha, probably – but other than that, right now you’ve just got to let the guys play at this time of the year. They know what to do.”