The University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey team began a short-lived post-season run in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament, losing Friday 5-2, and Saturday 4-3 in double overtime. Mavs left No. 6 Denver this weekend 18-17-1, with their eighth straight loss.
It was the second straight weekend the Pioneers have swept Omaha, and now will make things nearly impossible for them to break into the NCAA tournament. Denver (23-8-5) is headed in the complete opposite direction, with a little help from the Mavs anyways, winning their tenth straight and on a fast lane for the NCAA tournament.
After a slow, scoreless first period Friday night, it seemed the Mavs may have figured something out on the road at Magness Arena. However, Denver opened the second period scoring three goals in the first 3:10. The collection of goals by the Pioneers were scored by Trevor Moore, Troy Terry, and Colin Staub.
The lead didn’t seem to kill the Mavs’ momentum though, as they got within one by the end of the period with goals by Jake Guentzel and Brian Cooper. Cooper’s goal was his fifth of the season, a career best.
Danton Heinen scored a pair of goals in the final period of the game for the Pioneers, a shorthander with 8:06 left, and an empty netter in the final minute. Omaha goalie Kirk Thompson made 15 out of 19 save opportunities while Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet made 29 saves. Omaha attempted to comeback in the best-of-three series Saturday night starting a younger squad on the ice with Weninger in net.
Denver went up 2-0 after the first period Saturday, but about halfway through the second, Jake Guentzel scored on a 5-on-3 Maverick power play for his career-best 19th goal of the season. Just five minutes later, Austin Ortega scored on his own rebound to tie the game, and break his nine-game scoring drought. The teams entered the third period tied 2-2, but Danton Heinen was at it again with a late game goal that gave Denver the lead.
Guentzel and Ortega worked together to tie the game up again, with Guentzel feeding Ortega for his career-best 21st goal of the year. The game ended in its second period, and the third-longest game in UNO history, with a goal by DU’s Emil Romig. Weninger stopped a career high 46 shots for Omaha, which trailed Denver in shots on goal for the night 54-50. Omaha will now wait for a slim chance at a NCAA tournament berth.