OMAHA, Neb. — Nebraska-Omaha freshman Tanner Lane owes one to his head coach, Dean Blais.
Before Friday’s game against Colorado College, Lane hadn’t yet scored in a Maverick sweater and only had one assist so far to his name.
That changed, though, when Blais put Lane on a line with stars Dominic Zombo and Matt White to go against the Tigers.
Along with a hat trick from a more established forward in the form of Ryan Walters, Lane’s two goals proved to be important in the No. 16 Mavericks’ 8-4 win over CC at CenturyLink Center.
Tigers’ defenseman Mike Boivin also picked up three goals in the game in the losing effort.
CC’s record fell to 8-11-2 overall and 5-7-1 in the WCHA, while UNO improved to 12-8-1 and 8-4-1 in the league.
CC had started the season well, but is in a particularly rough patch these days, with the Tigers having gone 1-8-2 since Nov. 16.
Not that that’s UNO’s problem.
The Mavericks have had their own recent woes with which to deal, having lost four of their last five games, including a pair of losses a week ago at fifth-ranked Quinnipiac.
You wouldn’t have known, however, on Friday that UNO had been struggling. Not in a game where the hosts didn’t have a lot of trouble dealing with what the visitors put forth.
“It was for us, all the way around a poor night,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “But you have to give [UNO] a lot of credit. Those guys had tremendous jump and you can see why they’re the fourth-highest scoring team in the country and they were on.
“After their week at Quinnipiac, they came back and they were on and Zombo and Archibald, White and Walters – they all got into the mix. It was too much speed and too much skill for us to handle.”
In a game between two teams going through rough patches, this was always going to be a game where the first goal would be vital. UNO didn’t waste much time getting it, with Lane picking up his first goal as a Maverick 73 seconds into the game.
Charlie Taft then leveled things up just 3:29 later, cutting surgically through the Mavericks’ defense before beating UNO goaltender John Faulkner high. It was Taft’s third goal both of the season and of his career with the Tigers.
The hosts restored their lead later in the first period, though, and went back to the dressing room ahead by a goal. CC goaltender Josh Thorimbert got a piece of a hard shot from 15 feet out by UNO’s Matt White, but when the rebound fell to the far post, Archibald was there to tap the puck into the empty net for the junior forward’s eighth goal of the season.
The next period proved to be a goal-fest.
Zahn Raubenheimer doubled UNO’s lead 25 seconds into the frame after being hooked down by late-arriving CC defenseman Peter Stoykewych, but still managing to beat Thorimbert low from just outside the crease.
The Mavericks’ lead then rose to 4-1 just 67 seconds later when Archibald picked up his second goal of the night at 1:32.
Boivin pulled another goal back for the Tigers at 3:39 of the period on the first of his three goals. That brought UNO’s lead back to two goals, but it went back up to three at 7:25 when Lane scored his second goal of the night, thanks in part to a deflection off a CC player at the top of the crease.
Lane’s second goal of the game swung the game’s momentum back in UNO’s direction and Blais was pleased that his move to put the freshman on UNO’s top line paid off.
“[Lane] needed his confidence and he had been getting better and better in practice and that’s carried over, obviously, into the games,” Blais said. “He’s being more responsible all over the ice, strong on the puck and making plays. He’s always been a scorer, but it was just hopefully a matter of time until he started putting it in the net.
“He just seemed to be the right fit in that spot. It worked and hopefully, he can keep it going.”
Lane’s second goal brought an end to Thorimbert’s night, with senior goalie Joe Howe coming in for relief duty.
Unfortunately for Owens’ club, though, that move hardly stopped the bleeding.
Not content with the three assists he’d picked up earlier in the game, Walters scored his 13th of the season only 25 seconds after Howe entered the fray.
Boivin was credited with the game’s next two goals – his second of the night a shorthanded tally coming in the dying moments of the second period before he clinched his hat trick at 15:08 of the third – but it wasn’t enough.
White gave UNO a 7-4 lead at 15:25 before Archibald sent hats flying onto the ice with his own hat trick coming at 19:19.
Archibald’s hat trick was the first for a UNO player at home since Terry Broadhurst did it Feb. 5, 2010, in a 5-5 tie against Ohio State.
Though UNO has often looked shaky after coming off of a break, Blais hopes that the Mavericks have put their recent rough stretch behind them.
“I think we had been a little bit tired [against Quinnipiac last week], but we were then off for ten days and [with that], you get out of your rhythm,” Blais said. “Your timing’s not good, your execution’s not good and [the Tigers] were off a little bit longer, but it hurts a younger team like we have more versus a team with ten seniors.
“Sometimes, they can walk away for a week or two [unscathed], but we’ve always seemed to play a bit rusty after a break.”