OMAHA, Neb. – Considering Miami came into Friday’s game 7-1-0 after scoring first, things were looking great for the RedHawks when Bryon Paulazzo scored 13:16 into the game.
And then the second period happened.
No. 8 Miami held the run of play early in its season-opener with Nebraska-Omaha, and went back to the dressing room with a lead after 20 minutes. So far so good for the RedHawks, then.
However, five unanswered goals from the Mavericks in the first 17:35 of the second period proved too much for Miami to recover from, and UNO eventually coasted to a 6-3 win at CenturyLink Center.
With its win, UNO saw its record improve to 7-6-0 overall, 4-1-0 in the NCHC, and 5-2-0 so far this month. Miami fell to 7-5-1 overall and 2-3-0 in the league.
The RedHawks should be pleased with their first-period performance Friday. They held a very potent UNO offense to six shots in the period, and Miami picked up a deserved lead when Paulazzo cleaned up the rebound from a Riley Barber shot and beat UNO goaltender Ryan Massa from in tight at 13:16.
The second period, though, was an entirely different story.
UNO wasted no time scoring its equalizer, with Mavericks forward Dominic Zombo racing in down the left-side wall and firing a wrist shot in off the near-side post and past Miami goalie Jay Williams just 22 seconds into the second period.
The period wasn’t even half-over before UNO doubled its lead.
Johnnie Searfoss gave UNO the lead at 2:07 after taking a centering feed from linemate Zahn Raubenheimer and beating Williams from in tight. At 7:21, Mavericks freshman forward Austin Ortega scored the first of his two goals on the night thanks to, again, a centering feed from the goal line.
It was then that Williams left the game with an undisclosed injury. Fellow sophomore goalie Ryan McKay came in in relief.
Life got even better for the hosts at 13:33 when Massa stopped Miami forward Austin Czarnik on a penalty shot. Czarnik had been pulled down on a breakaway thanks to a slash from UNO defenseman Ian Brady, but when the RedHawks forward came in on his free shot, he went in probably too far and shot right at Massa’s midsection.
Mavericks coach Dean Blais felt that penalty shot, and not the UNO goals that came before it, was the turning point in Friday’s game.
“It’s a game of momentum, and certainly if he scores, they have it,” Blais said. “You can just see (attitude of) the bench lift.”
It did indeed, and UNO forward Brock Montpetit netted his seventh goal of the season 37 seconds later with a wrist shot through traffic from the top of the slot that found its way past McKay.
Just 3:25 after that, Ortega’s second goal of the night and third of the season came on yet another centering feed that found Ortega at the far post with enough time to fire into the net before McKay could get there.
Miami forwards Sean Kuraly and Kevin Morris then scored two goals 19 seconds apart in the final minute of the second period to get Miami back in it. What could have been a big momentum shift there didn’t last though, as UNO forward Josh Archibald put the game to bed with his 10th goal of the season 11:14 into the third period.
RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi felt UNO’s execution in the second period made the difference in the game.
“They outplayed us in the second period and got that big lead and we didn’t have probably as good a second period as we wanted to,” Blasi said, “And (that period was) the game.”
Blais, though, thought it was Massa and the UNO defense in front of him that won the Mavericks the game.
“We’re a pretty good offensive team,” Blais said. “But you don’t win championships with offense — you do it with defense. I
thought we had guys in position tonight, but (Miami’s) a good team and they created a lot of offense.
“They scored goals we maybe could have prevented, but then they didn’t score goals when Ryan made saves.”