OMAHA, Neb. — Bemidji State continued its recent mastery of WCHA rival Nebraska Omaha on Saturday, downing the Mavericks 6-4 at CenturyLink Center.
The Beavers have been a big thorn in UNO’s side during the teams’ first two seasons as members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, with the Mavericks only earning a dismal one win from 10 against BSU in league regular-season and playoff meetings.
This time, undisciplined penalties from UNO combined with an opportunistic performance from the Beavers offense to give BSU three of the four points on offer in the weekend’s two-game series.
Six different BSU players scored on Saturday and, despite a wild third period with goals zooming in at both ends at an alarming rate, goaltender Dan Bakala turned aside 36 UNO shots in, ultimately, a winning effort.
“It was just an odd game,” Beavers coach Tom Serratore said. “There were some crazy goals, a lot of penalties and not a lot of flow to the game, but these were two entertaining games this weekend, and the fans got their money’s worth out of last night and again tonight.
“Our kids work hard. We have an identity and we’re a little offensively challenged and we’re not as deep as a lot of teams, but our kids play hard. They’ve got their identity, they play the way we (as coaches) want them to play, and they play with a lot of heart and passion. They’ve got a lot of compete in their game.”
The Beavers were eager Saturday to kick-start their stretch run ahead of the WCHA playoffs, and it wasn’t long before they opened the scoring. BSU forward Jordan George’s 14th goal of the season did the trick 6:33 into the game, with the junior firing a shot from the slot past UNO goalie Ryan Massa.
The hosts then equalized at 13:48 of the same period with a goal of their own, with Jaycob Megna tipping home a long Matt White shot past Bakala, but parity didn’t last long.
Just 62 seconds after Megna’s goal, BSU struck back through a highlight-reel tally from junior forward Brance Orban. Orban suddenly found himself alone in on goal, but had to dive to knock down a bouncing puck between the circles before pushing the puck past Massa just inside the far post.
UNO forward Jayson Megna, brother of teammate Jaycob, later looked as though he had tied the game back up again with a goal coming from close range. The referees waved it off though, as Megna was judged to have kicked the puck into the Beavers’ net with his left skate.
The Beavers continued to frustrate their hosts in the second period, with Bakala turning aside 20 of the 21 shots he faced in the period while his defense foiled many other chances, including many coming on two consecutive five-on-three power plays for the Mavericks.
BSU then really gave UNO fits when the visitors doubled their lead at 16:05 of Saturday’s middle frame. Winning a faceoff in the UNO zone, Aaron McLeod passed back to defenseman Sam Windle, and the freshman blueliner ripped a slap shot from the right circle low glove-side past Massa.
The Mavericks did, however, pull a goal back just before the end of the period. Terry Broadhurst’s 15th goal of the season halved BSU’s lead, with the UNO captain stuffing a rebound shot past Bakala from just outside the Beaver goalie’s crease.
BSU didn’t have to wait long in Saturday’s third period before restoring its two-goal lead. Shea Walters looked to have put the game away 4:51 into the frame, firing home the rebound from a long Brad Hunt shot that rang off Massa’s left post and bounced out to the senior forward Walters.
However, more goals then started flying in at a very quick pace. Three goals in 2:27 brought the score to 5-4 in favor of the visitors. Broadhurst’s second goal of the night at 8:06 was answered 33 seconds later by BSU’s Ben Kinne before UNO responded again with a goal from White at 10:33.
UNO couldn’t break the visitors down any further, though, and a late empty-net goal from Beavers forward David Boehm finally put the result beyond doubt.
BSU has had more than its fair share of road woes this season, now standing at 4-8-2 when playing away from home. The Beavers are, however, unbeaten in their last six games in Omaha, and Serratore is glad to have such good fortune on UNO’s ice.
“It’s hard winning on the road in this league,” Serratore said. “We were close to getting four points but tied last night, but we got three out of four points in a very tough building against a great hockey team.
“We’ve been very suspect on the road this year — have a look at our road record versus our home record — so the road’s been tough on us, so, this time of year, this (win) is what the doctor ordered, and, again, the guys found a way to get it done.”
His UNO counterpart, Mavericks coach Dean Blais, let his frustrations — mostly stemming from his team’s lack of discipline on Saturday — be known in his press conference following the series finale.
“They’re a difficult team to play against,” Blais told reporters. “They’re very systematic and it’s a bit tough when they dump the puck out of their zone and you’ve got to regroup and attack again. We thought we had that fixed, and obviously when you score four goals in your own building it’s usually enough to win, but just when we’re making comebacks, you can’t take undisciplined penalties.
“It was frustrating to coach on the bench. It really was, with the turnovers and the scoring opportunities both ways. Last night’s game had just as many opportunities and it was a low-scoring game, but tonight you get into a little bit of a shootout and you want to win those games, but we totally took ourselves out of this game.”
UNO now travels to Michigan Tech for a two-game set next weekend. Meanwhile, BSU will host No. 11 Colorado College in Bemidji, Minn.