OMAHA, Neb. — Goals come at a premium for many unsung heroes in hockey, but some players have it worse than others.
However, when that big goal does go in — and especially when it happens in a big game — all previous letdowns are instantly forgiven.
That’s what happened Friday for Minnesota sophomore defenseman Jake Parenteau, who scored his first goal as a Gopher 1:46 into overtime to lift sixth-ranked Minnesota over Nebraska Omaha, 3-2, at Omaha’s CenturyLink Center.
Friday’s was a very entertaining up-and-down affair, with both teams controlling the game for large patches before Parenteau scored the game-winning goal in the extra period.
“It was obviously an important win, for us to go on the road against a very good opponent, and as we’re all fighting for our spots in the standings,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia told reporters after the game.
“We got off to a good start in the first before (UNO) kind of took it over in the second before we got some back in the third, and obviously for Jake to get his first goal, and to get it in overtime, that’s important.”
A fast-paced start to Friday’s game soon gave way to Minnesota taking an early lead. Gophers freshman Sam Warning did the honors, entering the UNO zone on a two-on-one and keeping the puck before beating Mavericks goaltender Ryan Massa high stick-side 5:53 into the game.
For the most part, the night’s opening 20 minutes belonged to the visitors, and none of the six shots Gophers goalie Kent Patterson faced in that period really tested him.
Friday’s first frame was a very physical affair though, with big hits taking place all over the ice. Tempers often boiled over, with the biggest example coming when Gophers forward Erik Haula appeared to head-butt UNO’s Brock Montpetit before a faceoff late in the period.
Once cooler heads started to show their stuff in the second period, however, UNO went to work, using its special teams units to take a 2-1 lead.
Montpetit leveled the game at 7:51 of the middle frame, with the goal coming just after a Minnesota penalty expired. UNO later took a lead through a short-handed goal at 11:06 from Jayson Megna, with the freshman forward breaking into the zone as part of a UNO two-on-one before roofing a shot high past Patterson’s glove.
UNO’s lead didn’t last long into Friday’s third period, though.
At the 4:17 mark of the frame, Gophers star forward Nick Bjugstad rolled in from the right corner in the UNO zone before beating Massa five-hole through traffic from the near-side faceoff circle.
Neither team scored again in the third period, leaving it for Parenteau to end the game in overtime. The Gopher blueliner, who has earned all four points of his collegiate career during this season, gave the visitors the win with a shot from the blue line that beat Massa high stick-side.
“Especially at this time of the season, it feels really good to get the (game-winning) goal, and especially in overtime,” Parenteau said after the game. “We’ve had to battle like this before, and we just know what we have to do, and obviously it worked here.”
UNO coach Dean Blais was disappointed about the result, but acknowledged that the Mavericks were able to take many positives from the game. Enough, he felt, that UNO was unlucky to lose the game.
“It was a good up-and-down game. It was probably an injustice that we didn’t get at least a point out of it, because I thought both teams deserved a point, but that happens.”
UNO (14-14-6, 11-9-5 WCHA) and Minnesota (22-11-1, 18-7-0) will close out their two-game set in Omaha on Saturday.