OMAHA, Neb. — Sometimes, it’s comforting to know some things don’t change.
Depending on what’s staying the same, however, that can also be incredibly frustrating.
One night after giving up three power-play goals in a 5-3 loss to No. 19 Cornell, Nebraska-Omaha excelled itself – and not in a good way – on Saturday in the form of a 4-3 Big Red win in which all four of the visitors’ goals came while they were playing with a numerical supremacy.
Cornell only got 13 shots on goal Saturday and UNO arguably had a better game in the series finale than the Mavericks did Friday night at CenturyLink Center.
On the other hand, somewhat unsatisfied Big Red coach Mike Schafer felt his team wasn’t as good Saturday, but certain parts of his team’s game – especially a 37-save performance from goaltender Andy Iles – allowed their club to pick up a sweep of the teams’ two-game set.
“I thought it was a little bit different,” Schafer said in comparing Saturday’s game to the night before. “[UNO] played better and I didn’t think we played as well, but I thought the player of the game for us was obviously Andy Iles and with the power plays and penalty kills, I think you’ve got to make some adjustments.
“It’s our first weekend and [the officials] are definitely calling the game different [to before] and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and practice.”
UNO’s difficulty staying out of the box reared its ugly head again early in Saturday’s game and Cornell benefited – twice in fact, scoring a pair of power-play goals only 28 seconds apart.
With Cornell on a five-on-three power play, Big Red forward Dustin Mowrey opened the scoring 7:04 into the game. Latching onto the rebound from an unsuccessful shot from linemate Jake Weidner, Mowrey tucked the puck inside the far post before UNO goaltender Ryan Massa could get there.
The visitors doubled their lead very quickly on that same power-play opportunity. Cornell forward Cole Bardreau, who had a goal and an assist Friday in the 6-3 win over UNO, beat Massa from short range on the five-on-four for the junior’s second goal of the season.
Cornell’s 2-0 lead lasted through to the end of the first period and well into the second.
At 11:23 of Saturday’s middle frame, however, UNO got itself back into the game thanks to a fortunate bounce.
UNO forward Brock Montpetit, who had been whistled for three penalties Friday, the second and third of which led to the Big Red’s two insurance goals, was credited with his third goal of the season after swatting at a rebound that surfed along near the goal line until Iles knocked the puck into his own net.
Just 1:11 later, though, Cornell restored its two-goal lead. Big Red forward Christian Hilbrich did the honors on a five-on-four power play, for those that might be sensing a pattern forming, taking the rebound from a Patrick McCarron shot and roofing a shot past Massa just in front of the goal line at the far post.
UNO forward Dominic Zombo halved Cornell’s lead at 17:32 of the same period after taking a perfect centering feed by Ryan Walters and burying a shot past Iles from the top of the crease.
Cornell then went ahead 4-2 at 9:03 of the third period on the Big Red’s fourth power-play goal of the night. Joel Lowry was credited with his first goal of the night and second of the weekend after taking a beautiful setup feed from Brian Ferlin at one side of the slot and beating Massa from the other.
UNO forward Johnnie Searfoss brought the score to 4-3 at with 5:11 remaining, but the equalizer the Mavericks were so desperate for never came.
Thanks to UNO’s third loss in a row, the Mavericks saw their record fall to 2-4-0, all in nonconference play. Cornell improved to 2-0-0 upon clinching a sweep on its opening weekend.
After Saturday’s game, UNO coach Dean Blais lamented his team’s struggles on the penalty kill.
“We still have the inability to be effective on the penalty kill, which we hopefully will fix – it’s got to be fixed,” Blais said. “Because [Saturday's game] tape will go out to our opponents in the NCHC and they’ll be working the same power play as Cornell worked tonight. We’ve got a lot of work to do on the penalty kill.”
Both games had more than their fair share of penalties – the two teams had a combined 29 power-play opportunities this weekend – but Schafer was pleased with the performance of Iles, as well as with Cornell’s power-play units.
“I had no problem with the way the officials called the game tonight and both games,” Schafer said. “I think players need to adjust and fortunately for us, the power play and our goaltender helped us survive that adjustment period tonight.”