Hockey splits series with chippy North Dakota

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Photo Courtesy of kmtv

Joe Franco
Sports Editor

The University of Nebraska at Omaha has had an up and down season, but one thing is for sure, the team was looking for some retribution from North Dakota this weekend after getting swept by them in Omaha earlier on the year.

The Mavs traveled up north to battle North Dakota, a team that has given UNO trouble as of late. After splitting their last series against Western Michigan, the Mavs were looking to carry on their momentum on their last road trip.

Western Michigan recently swept North Dakota in their last series. When asked if the Fighting Hawk’s recent losing streak would help the Mavs, UNO head coach Dean Blais mentioned in his pre-series press conference it might actually work in favor of North Dakota.

“It helps as far as the standings,” Blais said. “I don’t know if it helps us to have a mad team up there in a seven hour bus ride from here, but certainly we’ve had some success up there and it will be a good series.”

Obviously a losing streak could fire up any squad, especially in the tail end of the regular season where every point matters. Adding extra motivation to a team that already has an edge in their playing style could be the serge North Dakota needs. However, in the same press conference, junior forward David Pope assured Maverick fans that the team has their minds focused.

“Obviously North Dakota has lost a few in a row, so we are going to be looking to capitalize on that this weekend and bring our A game,” Pope said.

The Mavs only capitalized on one game in their series against the Fighting Hawks, but picking up some points on the road against a team that has recently dominated Omaha has to be a big sigh of relief. Here is a recap of UNO’s recent series against North Dakota last weekend.

GAME 1 RECAP

With 11,000 packed into attendance, the Fighting Hawks edged past the Mavs in a 6-4 win to make it six straight against Omaha. UND took the early 1-0 lead in the first period after a deep shot from Johnny Simonson banked in off the post.

North Dakota made it a 3-0 lead just 50 seconds into the second period off of a pair of goals from Tyson Jost and Brock Boeser. A foreshadowing of the outcome of the game.

The Mavs battled back and started their comeback after sophomore Steven Spinner snuck in a goal off of a pass from Finland-native Teemu Pulkkinen in the second period to cut the lead to two goals. Spinner continued his offensive showdown after connecting on a rebound for his second of the night and eighth goal of the year. After a lengthy review of the goal, the Mavs found themselves down just one with a period and a half left to play.

Pope maintained UNO’s momentum late in the second period after he quickly slapped in senior Austin Ortega’s rebound to even up the score at three apiece. Entering the third period with a tie, the game reset and was either team’s to win.

North Dakota and UNO traded goals early in the period, the latter coming from Pope’s second goal of the night. The Fighting Hawks battled back and Jost tallied his second goal of the night give UND a 5-4 lead. Boeser sole the puck 44 seconds later and scored his second of the night to secure the win and drain any hopes the Mavericks had at a late comeback.

GAME 2 RECAP

After losing a late one in the first game, the Mavs bounced back against a team that has given them a long history with, and UNO shutout the Fighting Hawks 3-0. This shutout was the first by either team in the series and the win snapped the Mavericks’ six game losing streak to UND.

In the first period, the Mavs capitalized on a power play to take the lead. Junior defenseman Luc Snuggerud zipped a pass to his teammate Pope to take an early 1-0 off of Pope’s one-timer.

Though there was no scoring in the second period, the Mavs defense shutout the fighting Hawks, and limited them to just one shot on goal. In his press conference before the game, Blais mentioned how important his defensemen would be in this series.

“I guess the biggest thing is that we have to do better without the puck in our defending,” Blais said.

The defense did just that as they stepped their game to shutout UND. The third period consisted of UNO snagging two insurance goals to seal the deal. Sophomore forward Riley Alfred logged his third goal in three games after sneaking in the puck in the top corner off of an assist from Oretega. Oretega capped off the night by hitting an open-net goal with just two minutes remaining in the game to give UNO a 3-0 win.

Though they wanted to snag both games of the series, it has a to be a big sigh of relief to split the series on the road with a team that is making the case to be Omaha’s biggest rival.

UNO’s last series of the regular season will be this weekend against No. 1 Denver in the Baxter Arena. Pope mentioned before the series just how tough UNO’s conference is, and if they can beat the best team in the country, UNO can pick up the momentum they need heading into the postseason.

“If you look at our conference, everything is so tight right now that you can’t really get a feel as to who you are going to be playing in the playoffs,” Pope said. “Every game matters, and especially in our situation with the rankings.”

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