OMAHA, Neb. — Bemidji State recovered well from a poor start Friday, eventually tying Nebraska-Omaha 3-3 and continuing the Beavers’ chokehold on UNO in the teams’ meetings at the CenturyLink Center.
The Mavericks (2-2-1, 0-0-1 WCHA) are now winless in their last seven games at home against the Beavers, who feel that they picked up a solid point in going to 1-1-1 and 0-0-1 in both teams’ first game in league play this season.
“All you want to do is get points on the road and we got a point on the road on the Friday night and I couldn’t be happier,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said. “I just thought it was an extremely gutty game by our guys. We came back from two two-goal deficits and the guys showed a ton of character and a ton of resiliency.”
That resiliency was needed after UNO flew off the blocks Friday and the Mavericks took an early lead as a result of their early supremacy. Sophomore forward Josh Archibald did the honors, shooting high over BSU goaltender Andrew Walsh’s glove 2:43 into the game.
The host’s slim lead lasted through to the second period and the Mavericks scored again soon after the restart. Matt White’s third goal of the season at 1:51 of Friday’s middle frame doubled UNO’s advantage and it was beginning to look as though UNO might be able to cruise to victory against a team the Mavericks hadn’t been able to crack in Omaha since Feb. 27, 2010.
Bemidji’s Radoslav Illo halved UNO’s lead with his second goal of the season – and his third in as many games all-time against UNO – at 9:03 of the same period. The Mavericks’ two-goal cushion was restored 34 seconds later, though, when Johnnie Searfoss beat Walsh from close range on the rebound from a failed attempt by Archibald.
UNO’s third goal was one the Beavers knew they shouldn’t have conceded, though, and the moment provided seemed to provide the spark BSU badly needed.
Nebraska-Omaha’s lead was brought back down to a single goal once more at 14:21 of the second period. Senior Beavers’ forward Aaron McLeod’s first goal of the season did the trick, with McLeod pushing a rebound past UNO goaltender John Faulkner.
Just over three minutes later, Bemidji equalized. The visitors had amassed enough momentum that a third Beaver goal had been coming. It came at 17:23 with Jordan George capitalizing on a UNO turnover in its own end before feeding the puck to Markus Gerbrandt, who shot low past a sprawling Faulkner and into the net.
Gerbrandt’s first goal as a Beaver capped a remarkable turnaround for the visitors and Serratore praised his team for its refusal to give up over the course of the game.
“When you’re down two goals and they get the third, it’s game-over and our guys just kept fighting back and fighting back,” Serratore said. “They chipped away and they found ways to score and once we found a few ways to score, that really elevated our bench.”
The deadlock lasted through to the end of regulation, and despite Bemidji State going on a power play 1:04 into overtime, neither team found a winner in the extra frame.
UNO head coach Dean Blais rued the Mavericks’ missed opportunities on a night where, with a 3-1 second-period lead and what ended up as a 42-25 shot advantage, UNO probably ought to have won.
“They kind of had momentum,” said Blais. “It’s 3-1 and they go to 3-3, and all of a sudden, we didn’t panic, but I didn’t think we had great intensity on the puck until the third period. Guys were working hard, but too many times we missed passes, a lot of turnovers, and pucks hitting sticks and bouncing off. That’s all we do in practice – try and produce offense. We certainly work hard defensively, but there’s a lot of drills that we do that are game-like situations and it didn’t show it at times tonight.”
UNO and BSU will meet again Saturday night in Omaha.