By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
In 34 games this season, UNO has scored the first goal almost as many times as they’ve given up the first goal. Last weekend against Minnesota, the Gophers scored first on Friday, and then UNO came back and scored first on Saturday.
It really didn’t matter, the Mavs lost both games. But Saturday was just the second time all year that UNO scored the first goal and didn’t come away with the victory.
“It’s something you have to worry about, but coming into a game you just kind of gotta do the little things to get the goal,” said Brock Montpetit, sophomore center. “I think if you worry about the goal too much you’re usually gonna get scored on where you’re not worrying about defense.”
“But that’s something we need to focus on coming into the playoffs here where one goal can win you a hockey game. It’s something we need to focus on coming in here to Denver, too.”
To earn home ice for the WCHA playoffs, UNO (14-14-6, 11-10-5 WCHA) needs to get two points this weekend against third-place Denver (19-11-4, 14-8-4 WCHA). With 27 conference points, the Mavs are tied with Colorado College and one point ahead of Michigan Tech.
Denver at 32 WCHA points is guaranteed a top four finish regardless of how the weekend shakes out. But the schedule for the final weekend of the regular season does offer some help to UNO. Michigan Tech is on the road at Colorado College. While a scenario still exists where the Mavs could jump up all the way to fourth, the only thing that is for sure is get two points and get home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
The position that the Mavs find themselves in is due mainly to some successful results at Michigan Tech and Colorado College in two of the last three weekends. The Mavs got three points against Tech and two in a comeback win in the Saturday game at Colorado College.
Though UNO had an empty weekend against Minnesota, it might have been their most consistently strong weekend of the season.
“I think we’re confident with ourselves even though we didn’t get those two wins,” Montpetit said. “We’re playing the type of hockey we want to, and I think playing like that will get us wins in the playoffs.”
In order to earn two or more points against Denver then make some noise in the conference playoffs, the Mavs would be well-served to score first.
Fifteen times the Mavs have scored first. In those 15 games, UNO is 11-2-2. Nineteen times the opponents have gotten the first goal. In those 19 games, the Mavs are just 3-12-4.
“It’s something we’ve talked about in the locker room,” team captain Terry Broadhurst said about scoring first. “Having a good first five minutes and trying to get that first goal and kind of getting a jump out there.”
Though UNO has earned three wins in games that they’ve failed to score first, they haven’t come back from a 1-0 deficit to get a win since Nov. 26 against beginning of 2012 the Mavs have scored first in exactly half of their 14 contests.
In that span, when UNO has scored first they’re 5-2, but 0-4-3 when the opponents get the first goal.
But regardless of what kind of deficit the Mavs might get into, they’ve shown the ability to come back from almost anything this year. At Wisconsin they trailed 3-0 before getting a 5-4 win.
Three weeks ago at Michigan Tech UNO was down 2-0 in a game they tied 3-3. At Colorado College the Mavs faced two 3-1 deficits and came back to get even 3-3 during both of those games.
“I think it shows a lot of character and not giving up, more than anything,” head coach Dean Blais said. “It’s hard to do to come back from a goal or two down and actually believe you can tie up the game. They don’t give up, and they believe they can win…sometimes under tough circumstances.”
Thus when UNO is in a situation where they’ve surrendered the first goal, there has been little panic in the team or on the bench.
“I think we’re pretty confident in ourselves,” Montpetit said. “We know we can score two or three goals a period if we really need to.”
“But it’s also Coach Blais’ philosophy and the way he’s trained us where we know coming into the third period is our period with our conditioning and our training where we can really take it to a team.”