OMAHA, Neb. — Finally nearing the end of a difficult week for the Nebraska-Omaha hockey program and its school at large, many wondered how the Mavericks would look Friday on the ice against Colorado College.
The answer? Efficient.
After Austin Ortega opened the scoring 11 seconds into the game, the Mavericks were then up 2-0 after only 2:15 and the hosts eventually picked up six goals in a 6-0 whitewash of the Tigers at CenturyLink Center.
It was an emotional win for UNO (14-15-2, 11-8-2-1 NCHC), having lost senior forward Zahn Raubenheimer for the season last Saturday after he broke a foot blocking a Western Michigan shot.
What then made matters worse was that the eight freshmen hockey players were displaced Wednesday after a two-alarm fire ravaged much of their on-campus dormitory building.
CC, having gone into Friday’s game on the back of a sweep of archrival Denver last weekend, fell to 6-19-6 overall and 6-10-5-1 in the NCHC.
“It affected the whole team at practice,” Mavericks coach Dean Blais said after the game when asked about UNO’s rough week. “But the university did a great job of taking care of everyone in that dormitory and from my perspective, especially the hockey players.
“They’re moving over to a regular dormitory on Sunday. In the meantime, they’ve been in a hotel and that’s probably been the best thing for them.”
Blais also acknowledged his team’s ability to bounce back from the news of Raubenheimer’s injury.
“Zahn Raubenheimer was one of our biggest cheerleaders on the bench [this season],” Blais said. “He’s still a big part of this team.
“It’s another example of this team overcoming adversity. It’s been that way the whole year. They’ve dug down and found a way to win.”
It was one of those displaced freshmen, though, that scored UNO’s first goal of the night, the fastest scored in the NCHC this season and fastest-ever UNO goal to start a game.
UNO won the opening faceoff and dumped the puck into the CC zone and freshman Austin Ortega raced in and fired a shot in off the inside of CC goaltender Josh Thorimbert’s right leg pad.
UNO doubled its lead 2:04 later on a shorthanded goal from Brock Montpetit with the senior forward coming in on a breakaway and beating Thorimbert to the CC goalie’s glove side.
Thorimbert’s night didn’t last much longer.
Tigers’ coach Scott Owens pulled his senior goalie, who had started each of CC’s 30 games coming into Friday, after UNO freshman Jake Guentzel made it 3-0 still only 5:28 into the game.
In came junior netminder Courtney Lockwood, and although Owens’ move and CC’s reaction to it appeared to slow UNO down a little, the hosts’ goals kept coming.
Josh Archibald brought the score to 4-0 6:07 into the second period. The junior’s 27th goal of the season, thus tying the UNO school record for goals in a single season, came when he fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Lockwood at the near-side post.
Archibald later picked up his record-breaking goal 4:04 into the third period. Guentzel didn’t find any luck when Lockwood saved the UNO freshman’s shot from low in the slot, but Archibald swept in to put away the rebound.
Fridays’ game was Archibald’s sixth multi-goal game of the season and fifth in his last 11.
The hosts’ lead then went up to 6-0 at 11:56 of the same period when James Polk redirected a long Nick Seeler shot from the blue line in past Lockwood.
Owens, who said he’d only heard Friday about the fire at UNO, thought some of the Mavericks’ sense of emotion in the game probably came from that. Owens also, however, pointed to the skill sets of the Mavericks’ upperclassmen.
“I’m sure [the emotion after Wednesday] was a part of it,” Owens said, “But they’ve also got a nice group of seniors playing their final weekend at home and they kind of got stung in the third period [last Saturday] at Western, but we knew they were going to be pretty good.
“They were tough to contain and we couldn’t contain them. They were just a lot better than us tonight.”
Ryan Massa earned the shutout for UNO with a 20-save outing.