OMAHA, Neb. — Two power-play goals played a huge part in Nebraska-Omaha’s minor upset of No. 20 Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday, where the Mavericks ran out 3-2 winners at CenturyLink Center.
Four goals in the first period gave way to more of a chess match in the final 40 minutes and UNO defenseman Michael Young’s third goal of the season at 12:12 of the third period stood up as the game-winner.
UNO improved its record on the season to 5-3-1 and 3-1-1 in the WCHA. UMD dropped to 2-4-1 and 0-2-1 in the league.
“Hard-fought game,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “And I thought Duluth carried the play and I was surprised they came out and were that sharp. After they got down 2-0, after being off last week, sometimes your passes are inaccurate and your whole game is off a little, but I didn’t think they were off at all.”
The hosts wasted little time opening the scoring on Saturday, though, and it was sophomore forward Josh Archibald’s sixth goal of the season that did the trick.
Archibald put the Mavericks up 1-0 before many fans found their seats, latching onto a centering pass from linemate Ryan Walters behind the net before beating UMD goaltender Matt McNeely low from a few feet out 38 seconds into the game.
UNO then doubled its lead just under five minutes later, this time on what for the Mavericks was a rare power-play goal. McNeely saved an initial shot from Andrej Sustr, but Walters pounced on the rebound and beat McNeely at the far goalpost.
The guests then got back into the game and hard work and good fortune for the Bulldogs saw their opponent’s lead evaporate before the first period was out.
UMD’s leading scorer, senior forward Mike Seidel, started the comeback with a goal at 14:01 that came during a five-on-three power play for the visitors. UNO couldn’t clear its zone and Seidel was on hand to beat Maverick goaltender John Faulkner to halve the host’s lead.
The Bulldogs then tied the game with 23 seconds left in the first period to send the teams back to their respective dressing rooms at level-pegging. Freshman Tony Cameranesi’s third goal of the season restored parity, with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ draft pick wristing one in off the near post.
Neither team scored in a second period where not much was accomplished at either end of the ice. UMD outshot the Mavericks 18-8 in the frame – and eventually 32-25 for the game – but the arena’s Zambonis were late arriving thanks to UNO homecoming announcements on the ice during the first intermission and that resulted in ice conditions that were far from ideal over the next 20 minutes.
UMD held the run of play for most of the game and the Bulldogs will feel unlucky to have gone behind again with 7:48 left in regulation.
The play that led to Young’s game-winning goal started with a long shot from Sustr that sailed high and wide of McNeely’s net. Maverick forward Dominic Zombo collected the puck after it bounced down off the glass and sent a nifty centering pass back out to Young, who buried the Mavericks’ second power-play goal of the night.
Discipline issues hampered the Bulldogs all night on Saturday. UNO isn’t a team known for scoring goals while playing with a man advantage – it has now only buried five of its 36 chances so far this season – but the Mavericks scored on two of their six power-play opportunities en route to the win.
Two five-minute major penalties in the game – and subsequent 10-minute game misconduct calls – to UMD’s Derik Johnson and Adam Krause didn’t help, either. Young’s winner came while UMD forward Austin Farley sat in the penalty box serving Krause’s major.
Bulldogs’ coach Scott Sandelin rued a combination of missed opportunities and undisciplined penalties, but he also saw bright spots in his team’s game on Saturday.
“Aside from the start, I thought we played a pretty good game,” said Sandelin. “Obviously, penalties hurt us in the third period, and we started the third period shorthanded with a major, and they got the big goal.
“But our guys battled back after spotting them two goals and had the better of the play and certainly the opportunities and got back into the game and made it a hockey game and it was probably fitting that it was a tight hockey game and one team was going to win by a goal and they found a way to finish on the power play.”
It’s also worth mentioning that UNO’s penalty killers weren’t world-beaters on Saturday, either. They’ve done well so far this season, killing 35 of the team’s 40 penalties, but the Mavericks conceded two power-play goals Saturday to UMD.
Still, though it wasn’t always pretty, the hosts did enough Saturday to pick up their third win in a row, all against WCHA opposition.
“First time we’ve been outshot all year and deservedly so,” Blais said. “Duluth is a quick hockey team, a good hockey team, and we’re happy to win this one. I’m not saying we stole it, I’m saying it was a hard-fought game and finally we won a 3-2 game.”