Well, it wasn’t the weekend hockey fans had envisioned for the University of Nebraska at Omaha. With a chance to secure home-ice advantage for the playoffs, the Mavericks lost for the ninth straight time to No. 1 Denver.
The loss ended the aspirations for fans to see legendary senior Austin Ortega skating at Baxter Arena one last time. Instead, Ortega’s last game will be played on the road, wherever that maybe. Still, fans had one last weekend to reminisce on the illustrious career on the man who helped propel the Mavs to its first Frozen Four in 2014.
The first game of the series took place on Friday night. Tied 2-2 in the third period, back-to-back penalties gave the Pioneers a 5-on-3 advantage. That would be all she wrote, as Denver scored 29 seconds later and added an insurance goal to take the first game, 5-3.
While the Mavs couldn’t obtain home-ice, Austin Ortega gave the fans a goal anyways. Well, kind of. Ortega was awarded a goal in the second period when a shot by Luke Snuggerud deflected off Ortega and into the net, providing a silver lining to a disappointing night.
Though the series had another game the following night, perhaps it’s best to forget about the final home game of the 2016-2017 season.
On senior night, Denver governed a 3-0 win that summed up the seasons of both teams.
For Denver, they exhibited what the number one team in the nation does: dominate. On the contrary, the loss reminded Maverick fans of the disappointment experienced this season. Home ice wasn’t much of an advantage this season, as the Mavs only won 6 of their 19 home ice contests. The lack of home-ice advantage isn’t the fans’ fault. Head coach Dean Blais noted the environment, saying “the fans were really into it.”
The Mavericks will begin the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Playoffs with a best-of-three quarterfinal action at Western Michigan. Results from this weekend will determine UNO’s opponent and venue. Coach Blais hasn’t given up on his team just yet.
“We’re right there, we’re playing our game,” Blais said.
It goes without saying that the next time the Mavs take the ice in Baxter Arena, the team will be vastly different. While UNO is only losing two seniors, the mold of the Mavs will completely change. Fans will get a chance to witness a new team, without the leadership of the swift and agile Ortega.
Instead, players like Snuggerud and Tyler Vesel, who had breakout seasons, will be ready to lead. As for now, the regular season is over, and playoff hockey is nearing. More prominently, it’s the Mavs last chance to salvage their season.