By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
What’s that popular saying about everyone loving a comeback? In UNO’s four road games, the Mavs have fallen behind every time.
Four times they have fallen behind 3-0, and three of those times they have failed to mount a comeback. But winning, as John Madden said, is a great deodorant.
The comeback that UNO was able to complete, last Friday at Wisconsin, smelled, looked and sounded better than perhaps any other in Maverick history. But what elements go into creating and executing a dramatic comeback? Is it hard work, good bounces, planning, talent?
Trailing 3-0 just 5:45 into the first period, there wasn’t much more that UNO could have done wrong.
Wisconsin’s first shot of the game went in 46 seconds after the opening face off. Three minutes and four seconds later, the Badgers’ second shot of the game made it 2-0.
As if a two-goal deficit wasn’t enough, a penalty to Zahn Raubenheimer at the 4:16 mark gave the Badgers a five-minute power play, with two minutes of five on three. The 10-minute game misconduct that came with the incident meant Raubenheimer would be removed from the lineup for the rest of the game.
The 2-0 deficit quickly became a 3-0 deficit one minute and 29 seconds into the two-man advantage. One Mav got to come out of the box, but five-minute majors stay on the board until the time is up, regardless of how many goals are scored.
Luckily for UNO, the team maneuvered out of the rest of the penalty without any more damage. Two periods later, with just 20.8 seconds left in the game, the Mavs would score the game winner and stun the Badgers 5-4.
“We were playing good; it was just a couple bad breaks, so for us it was kind of ‘Hey boys, there’s a lot [of] hockey left; we can score three goals really easy,'” said UNO captain Terry Broadhurst. “We just gotta work hard and believe, and that was probably the biggest thing. Everybody believed and everybody bought in, was on the same page and that’s what led to the comeback.”
Take that as ingredient number one to pulling off a dramatic comeback – belief. Though it was 3-0 before the game was six minutes old, Broadhurst and Head Coach Dean Blais said there was no panic.
Rather than focus on what had just happened, the Mavs turned their attention to what was ahead.
“Hey, there’s 40 minutes of hockey left,” Blais said. “Get two in the second, two in the third and you never know.”
Before the first period was over, UNO would go back to work, earn another power play and get themselves on the board. Badger goalie Landon Peterson misplayed the puck and Wisconsin-native Brent Gwidt jumped on the mistake, making it 3-1 with 5:02 remaining in the first.
Ingredient number two? A little bit of luck.
“After the first one we knew, all right now, we gotta get a second one,” Broadhurst said. “After the second one we knew we were gonna be able to win that game, it was just a matter of getting the job done.”
For all the talk about confidence and belief it was still a 3-1 deficit at the end of the first period. Things changed quickly in the second period.
The Mavs began to take over the game and carry the play. For the second period in a row, UNO was outshooting Wisconsin.
Still, the Mavs had only one goal to show for it. Broadhurst changed that at 15:08 of the second, scoring UNO’s second power play goal of the night to make it 3-2.
The confidence that Broadhurst said his team had all along was starting to show. As the third period started, it was difficult to tell that Wisconsin was playing with a lead.
For Blais it was more about what the Mavs hadn’t done, rather than what Wisconsin had done in forcing a comeback.
“We got to three to nothing because of them playing really well and us allowing them [to]. Allowing outnumbered situations, allowing them to score backdoor on the powerplay. We practice this all the time, it shouldn’t happen.”
Before the final period was three minutes old, Matt White had found room down the wing, got past a Badger defender and backhanded a shot past Peterson. In just under 37 minutes of game time, the Mavs had come all the way back from 3-0 and still had 17:19 to get the go-ahead goal.
Disaster struck less than two minutes later when Wisconsin scored and regained a 4-3 lead. It did little to thwart UNO. On this night, the Mavs would not be denied.
Broadhurst and the Mavs got another chance on the power play because of Wisconsin’s second penalty for too many men on the ice. It took Broadhurst just 19 seconds and the two teams were even again, 4-4.
As the time ticked near zero, the two teams traded six shots apiece, but it appeared overtime would have to decide a winner. Hard work in the offensive zone forced a hook from Wisconsin, and Alex Hudson scored on the power play chance.
Two hours and 20 minutes earlier, a game-winning goal from a UNO player seemed impossible. The moment was set up by the third ingredient in the Mavs’ comeback formula – conditioning.
“We condition hard every week so we know we’re gonna have the energy and the conditioning to play that type of game to be able to have a comeback,” Broadhurst said. “We just knew we had to believe, work hard and just chip away.
Belief, luck and conditioning. Most observers would call it mostly luck. After all, how does Wisconsin, who’s typically strong at home, blow a three-goal lead?
The Kohl Center is often a house of horrors for visiting opponents. An average attendance of over 15,000 fans give the Badgers a winning percentage of almost .700 when playing at home.
Two weekends ago, #5 ranked North Dakota skated into the Kohl Center and got swept 5-3, 5-4.
“If you work hard the hockey gods are going to repay you and you’re going to get rewarded,” Broadhurst said. “[We] worked hard and got some good, wouldn’t say good bounces…[just] really made the right plays and kind of made our own luck.
As good a comeback story as it is, the Mavericks don’t quite look at it the same way. They knew it all along.