OMAHA, Neb. – Although Nebraska-Omaha had started the month of November with a 3-1-0 record, bad habits started to creep back into the Mavericks’ game Friday night.
Taking bad penalties and getting burned for it was the reason the Mavericks finished last season two games under .500 with four losses from six games. That happened again in Friday’s second period, but this time, the Mavericks recovered.
A pair of power-play goals that gave the Wolverines a 2-1 second-period lead seemed to wake Nebraska-Omaha up going into the third, and two unanswered final-frame goals 2:19 apart saw the Mavericks come away with a 3-2 upset of No. 2 Michigan at CenturyLink Center.
UNO’s fourth win in its last five games saw the Mavericks’ record improve late Friday night to 6-5-0 overall and 3-1-0. Michigan, which hasn’t opened Big Ten play yet, fell to 6-2-1.
Perhaps even bigger than Mavericks forward Josh Archibald’s breakaway game-winning goal 5:43 into the third period was the Mavericks’ defensive performance before and after that. Four Mavericks had at least two blocked shots apiece, and that often-sacrificing effort was led by defensemen Brian O’Rourke (seven) and Michael Young (five).
UNO’s forwards also pitched in defensively, and coach Dean Blais was pleased with his whole team’s effort when the Wolverines had control of the puck.
“In between periods (going into the third), our guys never lost faith, but I think the story was really in the third when the game’s on the line and our guys blocked shots,” Blais said. “Johnnie Searfoss has a great chance on a two-on-one, misses the net and comes back to the ‘D’ zone and blocks a shot. Jake Guentzel comes into the ‘D’ zone and blocks a shot. Zahn Raubenheimer comes into the zone, blocks a shot, Nick Seeler. There are like five blocked shots in the last five minutes when the game was on the line.”
UNO’s power play unit hadn’t exactly been pulling up trees going so far this season; they started the season 10-for-59, good for 36th in the country. When a five-on-three advantage presented itself in Friday’s second period though, the Mavericks went to work and scored the game’s opening goal.
A deflection from forward Dominic Zombo off a slap shot from Young did the trick at 10:13 of the night’s middle frame, as it beat Michigan goaltender Zach Nagelvoort to give the hosts the lead.
Things started to go pear-shaped for the Mavericks soon after however, and two Michigan power-play goals 3:03 apart saw the visitors take a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
First, Luke Moffatt’s fifth goal of the season tied the game at 15:45 after his quick shot from the right circle beat Mavericks goaltender Ryan Massa glove-side just inside the far post. Soon after, the visitors again went on a power play, and after a Moffatt shot pinged off Massa’s stick-side post, Wolverines forward J.T. Compher put away the rebound from close range.
The Wolverines’ two power-play goals in Friday’s second period woke Nebraska-Omaha back up though, and the hosts took charge in the game’s third period.
The comeback began when Aaron Pearce scored his first collegiate goal 2:58 into Friday’s third period. Latching onto a pretty centering feed from Justin Parizek behind Nagelvoort’s net, Pearce fired home from close range to tie the game back up.
Then, at the 5:43 mark, Archibald contributed with his third game-winning goal of the season and ninth goal in all. Nabbing the puck and getting a step on defenseman Brennan Serville in front of the teams’ benches, Archibald accelerated down the near-side wall, cut in between the hash marks and wristed glove-side past Nagelvoort.
The way in which Archibald scored his game-winner hardly surprised Blais.
“You see his speed, and he can make plays at high speed,” Blais said. “His acceleration is probably the best in college hockey, and he’s not very big, but his first two steps, he’s gone and then he comes in and makes a great move on Nagelvoort.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson thought his team played well after a week off, but he felt Michigan’s defense began to unravel in Friday’s third period.
“We didn’t play last week, (but) I thought we came out and played a good first period, and then we hung on in the second period when the penalties kept us in our own zone most of the period, and then they scored a goal, and finally our power play clicked and we had a lead going into the third period,” Berenson said. “I thought we were ready to play, and that wasn’t the case.
“We give up a tying goal and had (bad) defensive zone coverage, and then the winning goal, they get behind our defense and walked in, and maybe the leading scorer in the country walks in on our goalie and then we couldn’t get (the lead) back. I thought our team responded and played hard, but couldn’t get the all-important tying goal.”