By Nick Beaulieu, Sports Editor
“There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. We’ve got to do everything we can to win,” senior Mike Young said Friday night following the team’s loss to Bentley in the season opener, losing 6-4. UNO bounced back Saturday in their rematch, winning 4-2.
With a draw of 4,578 people Friday UNO got off to a poor start, allowing the first two goals in the game and trailing 5-2 in the second period. UNO allowed two goals while they had a power play advantage.
“Obviously not a good team’s night when you when you give up two power play goals against and two short hand, that’s the story of the game,” said coach Dean Blais said.
UNO outshot Bentley 38-25 Friday, but the real difference maker was in shots saved. Bentley’s Branden Komm had 34 as opposed to Ryan Massa’s 19.
Despite this, UNO had plenty of chances, including a goal scored a split-second after the second period horn sounded and a perfect opportunity to tie the game in the final minute with a clean look that the Mavs were unable to execute on.
“We talked about ‘don’t give up, stay with it, anything can happen.’ Sure enough it was five to four and missed a chance in there,” Blais said. “The effort was there but we just got to play smart, too. You can’t just go out and skate around the ice.”
Junior Josh Archibald added, “It’s not really discouraging. Obviously the chances are there so you’re doing something right, but it was just his night and not ours. He made some great saves, and we had some great chances.”
The Mavs had more luck on their side Saturday, despite allowing the first goal of the game again. Freshman Kirk Thompson manned the net for the Mavs, and had 25 saves in his first collegiate start.
The story of the night was youth. Besides Thompson, highly touted freshman Jake Guentzel scored the game winning goal for the Mavs with 6:55 to play in the third period.
“I think the upperclassman can take a lesson from the young guys, and the enthusiasm that they put in the game,” Blais said.
Junior Jaycob Megna also made an impact on the game, scoring the goal that evened the score on a buzzer beater in the first period skating coast-to-coast for the score.
“That obviously helped a lot, we got a lot of momentum going into the second period and it definitely helped a lot and got the team going,” Archibald said.
The Mavs finished with four goals in total, with Dominc Zombo scoring the second goal and Archibald scoring on an open net in the final minutes.
Thompson, a Canadian who played for Prince George High School (BCHL) in the British Columbia has carried over his success from his exhibition performance against NAIT, where he allowed no goals in the second period.
“It was awesome. It was everything I expected it to be and I was out there having fun. As long as I’m doing the job and giving my team a chance to win. It’s good for me,” Thompson said.
After somewhat of a wake-up call Friday. the Mavs were able to shake off the first loss of the season split the series and get a win that they felt urgent to get.
“Last night [Friday] was like water over the dam, we didn’t want to dwell on it. It’s too early in the season to feel down and upset at each other,” Blais said. “They’re competitive and they hate losing just as much as I do.”
As far as the goal-tending situation, there is no concrete number one or number two options at this point.
“This is a performance based industry. If you win you’re going to get to play, all three of us are battling as hard as we can. If you win you’re going to get to play,” Thompson said.
The student reaction to the start of the season was big, as the entire student section was full for the opener Friday. Sophomore business student Nate Jones was impressed by the experience.
“The first game was awesome. It was probably the first time I saw the whole student section stand the whole game,” Jones said. “The students really showed up. It was really cool.”
The Mavs will hit the road for the next series, with their first away matchups at Northern Michigan this Friday and Saturday at 6:07 central time.
Keep up with UNO hockey while the team hits the road with stats and live coverage at Omavs.com and live tweets at @Gateway_Mavs. Games can also be heard on 1180 a.m. radio.