By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
When time ran out on Saturday night’s win over no. 20 Minnesota Duluth, UNO hockey cleared a few hurdles that had been haunting the team for some time. It had been since October 2011 when the Mavs last won three in a row.
It had been since Feb. 27, 2010 that the Mavs had won a 3-2 game. And no one remembers the last time UNO took advantage of a major penalty and scored on the ensuing power play.
But Mike Young chased all those demons away when he scored the game-winner at 12:12 of the third period. Young’s goal came on a five-minute power play and the Mavs won the game 3-2.
“Especially after last year, our power play, it wasn’t that good last year,” Young said about the recent troubles with scoring on extended power plays. “We’ve been struggling to start the year but I think we’re starting to role now. We just gotta get over that mentality, it’s definitely there but I think it’s out of there now.”
Young’s goal came after he had pinched forward and found himself in the right place at the right time. Fellow defenseman Andrej Sustr sent a rocket that went high over the goal and off the back glass.
Dominic Zombo controlled the ricochet and backhanded it back out front with a hopeful pass. Young rewarded that hope when he slammed the puck into a wide open left side of the net.
“I saw Sustr’s shot went a little wide and I knew somebody had to be there in front so I just put it there and thank God Younger was there,” Zombo said.
It might have been a fortunate bounce but it was also fortunate positioning. Young said that pinching in that far down low is not something typical of the power play strategy.
“It just happened that (Ryan) Walters rolled up to the top and Sustr and me switched for some reason so I had to go to the front of the net,” Young said. “No one was there and I was hoping one of them would shoot it and it would just go to the net. But it happened to get blocked, Zombo picked it up and the whole thing was a fluke.”
And maybe that’s what UNO needed. The five minute major assessed to UMD’s Adam Krause was the Bulldogs’ second major of the game.
Prior to Krause picking up the major and getting ejected for the game misconduct, teammate Derik Johnson was whistled for a major of his own. At 18:19 of the second Johnson was assessed a five-minute penalty and game misconduct for face masking Matt White behind the Maverick net.
But White received two minutes of his own for roughing on Johnson in the melee that broke out behind UNO goaltender John Faulkner. Once everything was sorted out the Mavs were on the power play for three minutes but failed to convert.
Krause’s five minute major gave UNO another opportunity. But with the recent lack of success on major penalties there was an intense sense of urgency.
Chances were that the game was going to be decided between the 9:50 and 14:50 mark of the third period.
“You don’t have to tell the players, they can kind of feel it,” Coach Dean Blais said. “They knew if we got the power play goal that we can dump it in, dump it out [and] play a little safer and conservative, not try to force it. A lot of times they kill a penalty, [the] momentum is there’s and they score.”
But of course, UNO ruined the last 1:33 of the Krause major when Josh Archibald took a two-minute high sticking penalty. Bad penalties almost cost the Mavs early in the game.
Josh Archibald scored 38 seconds into the game and Ryan Walters followed it up with a power play at 5:35 of the first.
Then Andrew Schmit took a hooking call at 12:06, Bryce Aneloski was called for cross-checking at 12:51, putting UNO down two men, and Johnnie Searfoss had a tripping call at 17:52. Mike Seidel scored on the two man advantage to cut the Mav lead to 2-1.
Tony Cameranesi scored late in the first on Searfoss’ penalty to even it 2-2.
“We took three stupid penalties,” Blais said. “We took a bad penalty in the offensive zone and then killing it we took a penalty in the corner and then the slashing penalty, all of a sudden…what are we doing?”
UNO recovered but trailed in shots the entire game. The Mavs were behind in shots 10-6 after one, 28-14 after two but got within 32-25 at game’s end.
On the penalty UNO was 2-for-6 with 10 shots while Duluth was 2-5 and had seven shots. Faulkner stopped 28 of 30 shots to pick up his fifth win of the year and pushed his record to 5-0-1.
The three-game win streak makes UNO 5-3-1 and 3-1-1 in the WCHA. UMD drops to 2-4-1 and 0-2-1 in conference play.
Saturday night was the first time in the last 11 3-2 games that the Mavs came out the winner. The last time UNO earned a 3-2 victory was at home against Bemidji State almost three years ago.
“It’s in the past,” Blais said about coming up empty on so many 3-2 decisions. “We did talk in between the second and third period about the three-minute power play coming up. “We have to score, we have to score…somehow. Let’s not get fancy, shoot the puck, get a rebound get a goal…just that simple.”