OMAHA, Neb. — Northern Michigan came into Saturday’s game at Nebraska-Omaha determined to show what NMU’s 17th-ranked hockey team is really made of.
NMU had been embarrassed the night before in a 5-2 loss to UNO, but the rematch was a very different story. This time, the visitors came away with a 2-1 win over the Mavericks (2-2-0) at the CenturyLink Center to earn a split in the teams’ two-game series.
Wildcats’ junior goaltender Jared Coreau was impressive Saturday, making 35 saves and erasing the memory of some 24 hours earlier when he was pulled halfway through Friday’s third period after conceding five goals to UNO.
“You’re not going to have very many bad nights with that kid,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said of Coreau. “He had a bad night last night, but he came in and had an outstanding game tonight.”
It wasn’t just a one-man show for the guests on Saturday, though. A solid defensive performance from the Wildcats in their own zone made sure that NMU forward Ryan Aynsley’s goal early in the second period stood up as the game-winner.
Northern Michigan (3-1-0) struggled against UNO in Friday’s first period, ending the first 20 minutes in a 2-0 hole and with only one shot of the Wildcats’ own on target. Saturday’s opening was a different story, though, with NMU determined to make up for its pitiful showing the night before.
The visitors limited the Mavericks’ scoring chances early in Saturday’s rematch and NMU picked up a well-deserved goal to take a 1-0 lead near the end of the first period.
With a delayed penalty coming against UNO and Coreau pulled in favor of an sixth attacker, NMU forward Ryan Daugherty took advantage of the visitors’ temporary numerical supremacy. Roofing a shot high over Maverick freshman netminder Anthony Stolarz’s glove at 17:52, the sophomore gave the visitors a lead that had been coming.
The Cats’ good fortune lasted through to the end of the first period and the visitors didn’t take long before doubling their lead early in the second. Aynsley did the honors, blasting a one-timer past Stolarz 4:19 into the frame for his first collegiate goal.
UNO halved the guests’ lead just 61 seconds later, though, on Josh Archibald’s first goal of the season. The Mavericks had started crashing Coreau’s net to try and get a breakthrough and Archibald did just enough 5:20 into the period to get the Mavericks back into the game.
The hosts couldn’t manage an equalizer and UNO head coach Dean Blais said after the game that his team had seen on Saturday a truer representation of NMU’s program.
“That is Northern Michigan, there,” Blais told reporters. “They’re well-coached, they’re fairly fast and they’re a good counter team. It’s tough in the neutral zone to break [NMU's] trap, but it’s even tougher when you’re not moving your legs.”
“Coreau was very good, but we showed up and competed much, much harder tonight,” Kyle said. “We came out and competed and showed up tonight right from the get-go.
“Last night, we were very passive and very kind of willing to let [UNO] punch us in the mouth and not do anything about it.”