Durham, N.H. – New Hampshire finished its weekend sweep of Nebraska Omaha with a 5-2 win. The Wildcats’ offense exploded late in third period with four goals in the final six minutes.
Tonight marked the second game that Omaha was without coach Dean Blaise after he and defenseman Jaycob Megna were suspended for an incident last season. Assistant coach Alex Todd and Troy Jutting took the reins behind the bench.
“I think the first time without a head coach it is a little different, and I thought the guys tonight were a little more receptive and were asking questions and making sure we were all on the same page,” Todd said.
Omaha held a 2-1 lead late into the final period, but with just 6:14 left in regulation the Wildcats tied the score on a power-play goal from Matt Willows. UNO’s Brian O’Rourke took a spill in front of the net, leaving Willows open on the left side. Kevin Goumas recognized the opportunity and fired a pass to Willows, who rifled the puck into the back of the net.
Two minutes later, UNH took its first lead of the game. Nick Sorkin fed Willows in the neutral zone, leading to a two-on-one. Willows elected to keep the puck and wristed it glove side on Kirk Thompson. Thompson got a piece of the puck with his glove, but not enough as it trickled in.
The Wildcats added to their lead 1:38 later when Sorkin cashed in on one of his own. Then with 1:44 left, Willows added an empty-netter for the hat trick.
UNH wasn’t even sure if Willows was going to play tonight because of a shoulder sprain from a hit last night. Willows said for him, it was really never in doubt.
“I saw the trainer this morning, but it was really my decision and I was cleared to go, so I dressed up,” Willows said. “Everyone gets bumped, but you find a way to battle and we got through it tonight.”
Casey DeSmith made 27 saves for the win, and his performance could get lost in the shuffle because of his team’s offense, but not for coach Dick Umile.
“He made what we call ‘when saves,’” Umile said. “He made the saves when we needed them.”
UNH could have been burned thanks to four combined penalties late in the second period and early in the third.
The Wildcats were whistled for two penalties on the same shift at the end of the second period, resulting in a five-on-three for two full minutes. With just 31 seconds on the clock, the Mavericks’ five-on-three power play rolled over to the third period. Then with time expiring in the middle frame, UNH’s Kevin Goumas picked up a slashing penalty.
After the Wildcats killed off the first two, Grayson Downing was sent to the box, resulting in another five-on-three for Omaha. Thankfully for UNH, Omaha’s Nick Seeler was called for a penalty, offsetting the second five-on-three.
On the four-on-three however, Michael Young dished the puck to Ryan Walters at the right circle, where he blasted it past DeSmith for the 2-1 lead.
Omaha took the 1-0 lead 13:51 into the first period on Josh Archibald’s 14th goal of the season. From the left post, Archibald flicked the puck between Matias Cleland’s legs. The puck floated through the crease and off of Brett Pesce’s hand and past DeSmith.