OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha extended its current winning streak to six games on Saturday, routing Alabama Huntsville, 8-0, in a physical game in which both teams took plenty of lumps.
The game had been fairly even at the start. However, a major contact to the head penalty and game disqualification to Chargers forward Sebastian Geoffrion late in the first period led to two quick power-play goals in the second period that effectively put the night’s result beyond doubt.
The Mavericks (8-3-1, 4-1-1 WCHA) had their troubles suppressing a remarkably valiant UAH effort Friday night at CenturyLink Center in a 3-2 win to open the two-game series, but Saturday’s tale was a very different one. Once UNO took hold of Saturday’s game midway through its first period, the hosts never really let go.
The Chargers, one of two D-I independent teams in the country, saw their overall record fall to 1-12-1.
“I don’t think any game is easy, but we scored the first goal, and that’s huge, and the five-minute power play definitely gave us momentum that we needed,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “After that, I think the guys played a good disciplined game (as opposed to what they had) last night.”
UNO co-captain Matt White opened the scoring 10:41 into the game. Receiving a highlight-reel behind-the-back centering pass from linemate Brock Montpetit behind the net, White roofed a shot high over UAH goaltender Gregg Gruehl’s glove and into the net.
That’s when the game really became chippy. Geoffrion shot the fish that a UNO fan traditionally throws onto the ice following the Mavericks’ first goal of the night across the ice toward the Zamboni entrance, and a skirmish ensued that foreshadowed what was to come.
Geoffrion’s night didn’t end there, but it did near the end of the first period, as he was ejected at 19:31 after nailing UNO’s Andrew Schmit, and Geoffrion followed that up by clotheslining another Mavericks forward in the ruckus that followed the whistle.
UNO took advantage of the resulting power play, which ended up being a five-on-three when UAH forward Alex Allan committed a tripping penalty 2:23 into the second period. Two UNO goals 22 seconds apart from Nick Seeler and Dominic Zombo put the hosts up 3-0 and, ultimately, put to bed the game as a contest.
UAH coach Kurt Kleinendorst said after the game that Geoffrion’s penalty and the scrum that ensued provided unquestionably the biggest moment of the game.
“It was, without a doubt, the turning point of that game,” Kleinendorst said. “I don’t have any problem with the call whatsoever – (Schmit was) vulnerable, and you can’t make that hit because someone’s going to get hurt.
“What I had an issue with was their guys coming off the bench, because they had seven guys in the scrum, and we had our five. That turned the game around. It’s unfortunate, and we talk a lot about adversity because it strikes every single game at some point, and we just didn’t respond to it.”
Things got worse for the visitors in the third period. Ryan Walters scored his fifth goal in his last five games 49 seconds into the frame. He scores again at 8:23, but not before Johnnie Searfoss brought UNO’s lead to 5-0 at 2:59.
Mavericks forward Zahn Raubenheimer later scored UNO’s seventh goal of the night, deking past Gruehl before beating the netminder at 16:27.
UNO forward Brent Gwidt then made it eight at 19:19 for the senior’s third goal of the season.
The Mavericks’ five third-period goals were, however, merely an addition of insult to proverbial injury. UNO, Blais said, had the game in hand following its two power-play goals in Saturday’s middle frame.
“Sometimes when you don’t score (on a five-minute power play), and it’s a momentum-changer for the team that took the five-minute major,” Blais said. “A lot of times, you’re killing off with three units versus two power play units, which is even more advantageous because you’re tiring out what would’ve been our line with Montpetit and Zombo.
“Instead, we get two goals, and after we got up 3-0, I thought this game was pretty much at hand, and when it was four, I pretty much knew it was over.”
UNO now prepares for a big WCHA series at Minnesota next week. UAH will play at home next weekend for the first time since Oct. 13 when it welcomes the U.S. Under-18 Team to Huntsville, Ala.