By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
There’s nothing like raining on someone else’s parade to start a late-season run. A week after Bemidji St. came to Omaha and ran their record at the CenturyLink Center to 5-0-1 all-time, UNO traveled to Houghton, Mich. and ruined the celebration.
With home ice for the conference playoffs and the Winter Carnival trophy on the line, the Mavs took three of four points in a 3-3 tie and a 4-0 win at Michigan Tech. Two goals from UNO’s leading scorer Matt White and the first collegiate shutout for goaltender Ryan Massa keyed the Mavs’s success.
“We learned a little bit of a lesson last night again and put ourselves in a tough position,” Head Coach Dean Blais said after the 4-0 victory. “Being down two goals we took some undisciplined penalties and it cost us the game (Friday) night.”
When the weekend began the Mavs and the Huskies were tied for fifth place in the WCHA at 22 points apiece. Michigan Tech was coming into their annual Winter Carnival competitive for the first time in years.
“Tonight we played a pretty flawless game,” Blais said. “We didn’t give them a whole lot, limited them to a lot of perimeter shots. Obviously Ryan Massa played well and Matt White was tournament MVP with two nice goals.”
The Huskies’ 13 wins this season are as many as the team had the last three years combined. By the time Winter Carnival had rolled around, Tech was either out of it or could only play spoiler.
This year has been different. Although the Huskies have come back to the pack in the last several weeks, their hot start has them in position to have home ice for the WCHA playoffs for the first time since 1993.
UNO’s three points clears up the logjam for home ice between the Mavs, North Dakota and Michigan Tech for the time being. North Dakota earned a split at Minnesota Duluth allowing the Mavs to jump to fifth place with 25 points, the Fighting Sioux to drop to sixth with 24 and Michigan Tech to slide back to seventh with 23.
“Not very often do you get out of here with any (conference points),” Blais said. “So I was pretty happy and we’re pretty happy to win this thing.”
The Mavs came out Saturday afternoon and started with a solid road period. UNO limited the Husky chances, got a power play of their own and never gave another large, carnival crowd the chance to get into the game.
At 6:54 of the second period Matt White opened the scoring when he got a step on a Tech defenseman. White took a pass from Jayson Megna, gained the zone and beat goaltender Josh Robinson without much to shoot at.
White increased the lead to 2-0 with an unassisted goal 5:30 into the third period and freshman Jayson Megna followed it up less than two minutes later. After getting just inside the blue line, Megna let go a wrister from 60 feet out to make it 3-0.
A penalty to defenseman Matt Smith in the third period had UNO down a man but fellow defenseman Michael Young had a shot redirect off a Tech defender into the net. The shorthanded goal to make it 4-0 ended the scoring and got the Mavericks on the Winter Carnival trophy for 2012.
For much of the game it seemed that UNO’s speed and skill were too much for the Huskies to handle. Though they kept even with the Mavs the night before; that might have led to a lack of energy Saturday afternoon.
“I think they had to play at our pace,” Blais said. “We’ve got big defenseman and they played well. They (Michigan Tech) fore checked hard; they worked hard too [but] they just couldn’t get a bounce or chance or second chance. The team did a great job tonight of taking away any second opportunities and rebounds.”
Though goalie Ryan Massa had been pulled just over five minutes into the game the night before, Blais had no reservations about putting the freshman back in net the next afternoon.
“He was victimized a little bit last night,” Blais said. “He was kinda screened on the first goal and the second goal was a deflection off of Andrej Sustr’s stick. Being two shots down 2-0 was more of a shock to the team [we thought] ‘okay we gotta get going now.'”
In normal fashion, the Mavs started the weekend from behind and let one slip away. Before a near-sellout crowd of 3,454 could get to their seats, Michigan Tech scored 55 seconds into Friday’s game and made it 2-0 less than five minutes later.
Just 5:15 into the game, Blais looked down his bench and called on goaltender John Faulkner to skate out and replace starter Ryan Massa. Faulkner came up strong, playing the next 59:45 in regulation and overtime stopping 26 of 27 shots.
Jayson Megna got UNO on the board 10:11 into the first, sliding a rebound off a shot from Ryan Massa into an open net. Bryce Aneloski scored a goal at the 1:27 mark of the next period and Walters got one of his own six minutes later.
It was Aneloski’s third goal in four games and Walters’ first since a 2-2 tie against Quinnipiac on Dec 30. But after falling behind 2-0 then taking a 3-2 lead, the advantage was short lived.
Tech’s Jordan Baker scored with 3:13 left in the second on a 4 on 4. At the end of the period Walters was whistled for checking from behind, given a five-minute major then disqualified from the rest of the game on a game misconduct penalty.
It was the Mavs’ fourth such game misconduct in a span of just seven games. UNO killed off the penalty then survived an interference call to senior defenseman Matt Smith 11:56 into the third.
From the second period on UNO was outshot 14-5, but neither team could break the tie in regulation or overtime.
In the two games, the Mavs went 0 for 7 on the power play including failing to convert on 1:41 of 5 on 3 time Friday night. Since the calendar changed to 2012, UNO only has three power play goals in 33 chances.