OMAHA, Neb. – No. 19 Cornell’s 5-3 win at Nebraska-Omaha Friday wasn’t always especially pretty to watch, but, as the cliché goes, they all count.
The Big Red started to creep into the realm of bad traits late in the first period and into the second at CenturyLink Center. Three power-play goals however, helped Cornell (1-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) win its first official game of the 2013-14 season.
“The first game was much of what we expected,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “It was a little sloppy at different times of the game and not very detail-oriented at different times of the game, but obviously what won it for us was our ability on the power play.
“We got some big power-play goals to get the lead and put (the game) away and obviously a huge goal in the third when we kept going at it.”
Cornell only managed four shots on goal in Friday’s first period, but one of them did find the back of the UNO net. Big Red defenseman Joakim Ryan was credited with his team’s first official goal of the season 13:20 into the game when he roofed a pretty wrist shot from the slot high past UNO goaltender Kirk Thompson for a power-play marker.
The rest of the period came and went largely without incident. Almost entirely, in fact, except for action that came in the frame’s final seconds.
Facing going back to the dressing room trailing after 20 minutes, UNO forward Tanner Lane took advantage of a scrum in front of Cornell goaltender Andy Iles’s net as time wound down. The puck came loose and fell to Lane at Iles’s left-hand post, and the sophomore backhanded a shot into the net with just two tenths of a second remaining on the clock.
UNO and Cornell both picked up another goal inside the first 10 minutes of the second period, but the hosts later found themselves ahead through 40.
The visitors took their second lead of the night 6:20 into Friday’s middle frame when Joel Lowry swatted home the rebound from a shot from linemate Cole Bardreau.
That lead evaporated 2:58 later when UNO was awarded a penalty shot when UNO forward Josh Archibald was dragged down in front of Iles after racing in on a breakaway. Archibald responded by netting his fourth goal of the season on the Mavericks’ first penalty shot attempt since Feb. 2, 2008, against then-league rival Michigan State.
At 17:48 of the same period, UNO forward Ryan Walters gave his team a lead of its own. A Hobey Baker Memorial Award candidate last season, Walters was the beneficiary of another scrum in front of Iles’s crease when the senior winger knocked home a loose puck at the far post for a power-play goal.
Just like Cornell’s two leads earlier in the game, however, UNO’s one-goal advantage wasn’t safe. The Big Red wasn’t done, and it took its third lead of the game with a pair of goals coming 56 seconds apart in the third period.
First, a UNO turnover in its own zone resulted in Cornell forward Dustin Mowrey having plenty of time and space to beat Thompson high glove side from between the circles at 7:17. The visitors then went back ahead less than a minute later when Bardreau beat Thompson with a gorgeous snipe from the slot at 8:13.
Cornell then notched an insurance goal at 18:37 when great cycling in the Mavericks’ zone on a five-on-three power play, thanks in part to a silly elbowing penalty from UNO forward Brock Montpetit at 17:53 that put the hosts down two men.
Brian Ferlin did the honors on his team’s fifth goal of the night, taking a cross-crease pass from Patrick McCarron before having plenty of time to score past Thompson at the far post. It was Cornell’s third power-play goal of the night on eight attempts.
Bardreau didn’t feel Friday’s victory was a complete 60-minute performance from his team, but he commented on the Big Red’s ability to recover from issues it faced in the middle of the game.
“Early on there, I thought we were playing well and being first to the puck and stuff like that, but I think we kind of got away from our game towards the middle of the game and then just had a gritty comeback. That’s what we pride ourselves on and, at the end of the day, it wasn’t a nice one, but we got the job done, so it’s good.”
After watching his Mavericks fall to 2-3-0 (0-0-0 NCHC), coach Dean Blais assessed his club, which lost its second game in a row. In those last two games, UNO has scored six goals but has given up 11 in the process.
“We’re a bits and pieces hockey team right now,” Blais said. “We’re working hard, getting offensive chances, and then defensive breakdowns are going right (into our net).
“The effort was there, but bits and pieces right now. Not a total commitment, not totally moving the puck, not totally closing on guys. Once-in-a-while hockey is what we’re playing right now.
“We’re obviously not a top team right now. We have the makings. Guys are working hard. … We hopefully can fix it.”
On the other side of the dressing room divide, Schafer was just happy to get what ended up being a gritty road win.
“I think we didn’t know what to expect, because we hadn’t played a game yet,” Schafer said. “We didn’t know how all the (officials’) new initiatives were going to work out, and there was a lot of not knowing what was going to happen tonight and we just found a way to win on the road against a good hockey team and now we get ready for tomorrow night.”