OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha rarely struggled against No. 17 Northern Michigan on Friday, defeating the Wildcats 5-2 in a very one-sided game at CenturyLink Center.
UNO junior forward Brock Montpetit stole the show, picking up a goal and two assists on a night where even NMU head coach Walt Kyle suggested his Wildcats hadn’t really shown up.
“It was less the result that I wasn’t happy with as much as that we didn’t compete at all,” Kyle said. “I thought we got out-competed. I thought we turned over far too many pucks.
“I think you’ve got to give the Mavericks a lot of credit. They came at us, they forced us into turnovers and they won every one-on-one battle. We just were not very good and they certainly deserved the win.”
UNO (2-1-0) jumped out to an early lead with two goals coming 1:17 apart in the first period and NMU (2-1-0) never recovered.
The hosts held court throughout the game’s opening throes and UNO made its early superiority count on the scoreboard at the 10:36 mark of the first period.
Montpetit’s first goal of the season put the Mavericks ahead. An initial shot from UNO defenseman Nick Seeler sailed wide of NMU goaltender Jared Coreau’s net, but Montpetit was in position to swat the puck home from close range after it bounced back out front off the end wall.
UNO didn’t wait long before doubling its lead. Junior defenseman Michael Young did the honors, rifling a hard shot from the top of the slot past Coreau at 11:53.
Northern’s woes didn’t end when the first period did, though. UNO’s lead rose to 3-0 just 3:48 into the middle frame, with Brent Gwidt beating Coreau five-hole on a shorthanded breakaway.
NMU freshman forward Darren Nowick then scored his first collegiate goal past John Faulkner at 9:14 of the period. UNO forward Matt White restored the host’s three-goal lead just 1:24 later, however, beating Coreau with a nifty deke before shooting into the gaping net.
White and Montpetit scored the Mavericks’ two biggest goals of the night, leaving UNO head coach Dean Blais pleased with his top line’s performance.
“You have your leading left-winger in [Ryan Walters] and Brock had a great freshman year, but fell off a little bit last year with his production and Matt White can play with anyone,” Blais said. “[White] seems to get a lot of scoring chances coming off that right wing, being a left-hander. He could’ve had a couple more goals – I think he was a little surprised that he didn’t have a few more.”
The Mavericks’ lead was bumped up to 5-1 at the 6:49 mark of the third period. UNO defenseman Andrej Sustr’s second goal of the season did the trick as the Czech beat Coreau with a beam from the top of the right-hand circle in Northern’s zone.
Young and Sustr now have one-third of UNO’s goals thus far this season – four of 12 – and Blais praised his blueliner’s attacking prowess.
“They’re going to continue to score and they’re getting chances,” Blais said. “Andrej’s [tonight] was just a bullet. Our defensemen are moving their feet and getting opportunities. That’s the kind of team we’re going to have to be. We need to get offense from those defensemen.”
UNO’s fifth goal signaled the end of Coreau’s night, with Kyle then pulling the junior in favor of freshman backup Michael Doan.
Reed Seckel later picked up a second consolation goal for the visitors at 13:12 of the third period. UNO fell asleep in its own defensive zone and the sophomore forward was there to capitalize with a shot past Faulkner from close range.
Northern will have to up its game in Saturday’s rematch if NMU wants to come away from this series with a split. The Wildcats faced a long bus ride down to Omaha from NMU’s campus in Marquette, Mich., but Kyle said he wouldn’t take bus legs or anything else as an excuse for a poor showing on the ice.
“I’m not going to take an excuse,” said Kyle. “You’ve got to get on the ice, you’ve got to show up [and] you’ve got to compete. Bus trip or no bus trip, home, away, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to play.”