By Nick Beaulieu – Reprinted from the OWH
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — If there’s one thing that’s been key to UNO’s success this season, it’s been strong goaltending. Saturday night, the Mavericks got a taste of their own medicine.
No. 11 UNO fell behind against No. 2 North Dakota and couldn’t rally, dropping a 3-2 decision for its first road loss of the season.
Like Friday, North Dakota struck first. With UNO (7-3-2) on the penalty kill following an Austin Ortega roughing call, UND’s Jordan Schmaltz threw a shot that hit Mavs goalie Ryan Massa and tumbled in 2:02 into the first period.
Later in the period, UND’s Mark MacMillan took the puck to the front of the net and lobbed in a backhander, and UNO ended the period with a two-goal deficit.
The Mavs outshot North Dakota 10-6 in the opening period, but couldn’t get anything past goaltender Zane McIntyre.
The Mavs got physical in the second period. UNO’s Luke Nogard and UND’s Andrew Panzarella were called for unsportsmanlike conduct after jawing before an early faceoff.
Less than a minute later, Brian Cooper was called for cross-checking and the Mavs were down a man for the remaining penalty.
“Every time we play Omaha, it’s always a tough series, it’s always a scrap,” North Dakota forward Stephane Pattyn said. “I think both teams like that, it’s hockey. Emotions run high, especially when games are that close and adrenalines are pumping hard.”
The Mavs killed the Cooper penalty and began generating more chances.
Dominic Zombo ripped a shot from the slot but McIntyre was there for the save. Minutes later on the break, Luc Snuggerud fired a shot that deflected off McIntyre into Ortega’s lap, but McIntyre slid perfectly to stop the put-back.
The Mavs converted their first goal at 15:52. Tyler Vesel battled behind the North Dakota net until he got the puck to Jake Randolph who fired in a short strike.
UND was whistled for slashing at 16:08 and the Mavs seemingly rediscovered their groove from Friday. But UNO got sloppy on the power play and North Dakota took advantage.
With the penalty time ending, the Mavs turned it over in their own zone. Pattyn got the steal near the blue line and ripped a wrister near the circle that banged off the pipe and in to put UND back up by two.
“They came out, and got to give them credit, defensively and offensively too they outworked us and got a couple bounces,” Randolph said.
As time winded down in the second, Cooper was whistled for another penalty, and UNO finished the period down 3-1.
The Mavs came out rejuvenated to start the third period and killed the penalty with ease. The Pope-Peterson-Davis line got chance after chance for the Mavs early on, but couldn’t get one to go.
North Dakota was whistled for tripping at 7:10, but even with the power play the Mavs still couldn’t score.
UNO and UND continued to grind most of the period, and UNO scored its second goal when Brian O’Rourke’s shot bounced off McIntyre and fell to Grant Gallo, who poked it in for the score at 13:48.
UNO pressed on in search of an equalizer. Messner had an open look with a little less than three minutes to go but the shot went wide. After a UNO timeout at 18:01, UNO pulled Massa for an extra attacker.
UNO held the puck for nearly the entire final two minutes and outshot UND 15-3 in the third.
UNO’s last good look came on a deflection by Peterson, but McIntyre smothered the opportunity. UND collected the puck in the final seconds and held on to win.
“We outworked them (in) the third period and got more chances than them, just a bounce here and there,” Randolph said. “(Coach) said just to keep with it, and he knew that there were bounces, and if we just kept working and getting it down low and wearing out the ‘D’ we’d have success, but unfortunately it didn’t go that way tonight.”
UNO finished with a 34-23 shot on goal advantage.
McIntyre came away with a season-high 32 saves, and effectively shut down the Maverick offense most of the night.
“It was pretty frustrating,” sophomore forward Jono Davis said. “A lot of guys were shooting pucks but not going in.”
UNO’s third period rally gave McIntyre all he could handle, but the junior goalkeeper said North Dakota held it together.
“Little hectic. Obviously fun, but a little hectic,” McIntyre said of the late-game action. “In the third, they got that second goal and I think we held our composure. It was a real character win.”
The win gave UND 16 points in the NCHC and propelled it to second in the standings. UNO, with only six NCHC games played this season, now sits in 4th place with 11 points.
Despite their road streak being snapped, the Mavs still have confidence that when away, they can get the job done.
“Our confidence on the road is really high right now,” Davis said. “If we just play 120 minutes, Friday-Saturday, each night. There were a couple mental mistakes, but if we clean that up I think we’re going to be in great position at the end of the year.”
The Mavs will hit the road again to face Miami (Ohio) next week for another NCHC series.
“I think we did an alright job tonight, just not enough,” Randolph said. “We don’t like to lose, it hurts pretty bad right now, but we’ll get back to work Monday and we’ll be fine.”