By Nate Tenopir, Senior Staff Writer
St. Louis – After a summer of preparation, 38 games of competition and 2,352 minutes of game time, the UNO hockey season came down to a span of just 10 minutes and 21 seconds. In that short time span, the hopes and dreams of a Frozen Four appearance and potential national championship were wiped away.
Tied 2-2 after 60 minutes of regulation, the Mavs first round NCAA tournament matchup with Michigan ended 2:35 into overtime. The referees used 10 minutes and 21 seconds to review a play around the UNO goal.
With the crowd beginning to boo and players waiting anxiously on the ice, the referee emerged from the scorer’s box and pointed at center ice signaling a Michigan goal. Maverick hearts in St. Louis and back in Omaha sunk in disappointment. Instantly, the season was over.
“Obviously it was probably one of the longest waits of my life,” UNO Senior Captain Joey Martin said. “But I was talking to our players on the ice, they didn’t really think it went in, so I was kind of confident that they’d waive it off, so it was a pretty big surprise when they called a goal.”
The play began on a shot from Wolverines’ Greg Pateryn that bounced off the boards to the front of the UNO goalmouth. Fellow teammate Kevin Lynch got the puck on his blade and attempted to get a shot off.
Lynch put the puck on net somewhere in the gear of UNO sophomore goaltender John Faulkner. Eventually, the puck squirted back into view on the Mav goal line and was swept down to the other end for icing.
Though the initial call on the ice was no goal, the referees used the stoppage in action to review the previous play. The review was not shown in the arena and the Mavs didn’t have a chance to view the play, only the referees.
“You can’t tell from the bench, obviously, and none of the guys on the ice could tell I’m sure, either,” UNO Head Coach Dean Blais said.
Asked what he thought of the call the officials made, Blais had little to say.
“I don’t want to comment on that,” he said. “The referee’s signal was in, and we’re gonna accept that.”
UNO had built a 2-0 lead in the first eight minutes of the game on a shorthanded goal from Rich Purslow and a pass from Ryan Walters to Alex Hudson who found the back of the net. Just 1:26 into the game, the Mavs found themselves a man down when Brock Montpetit was whistled for boarding.
What seemed like an ominous start turned out to be in UNO’s favor when Martin found Purslow. Near the Maverick blue line, Martin shot a pass past a drawn in Michigan defense finding Purslow breaking the other direction.
Purslow rushed toward the Wolverine netminder Shawn Hunwick on the breakaway, finishing the play between Hunwick’s legs.
“Michael Young made a good play poking the puck up the boards to Joey (Martin),” Purslow said. “I guess they had the guy on my side. He was cheating down a little bit, so I recognized that, saw the opening and just tried to skate as fast as I could and Joey found me for the breakaway.”
Less than seven minutes later, the Mavs were cycling the puck in the Michigan zone, eventually finding their next opportunity to score. Montpetit passed to Walters skating down low to the corner.
Hudson broke for the net getting enough separation from his defender to receive the Walters pass cleanly on his tape and put it past Hunwick, giving the Mavs a 2-0 lead. Michigan answered in the second period with a power play goal from Louie Caporusso and an even-strength score from Kevin Lynch.
The Wolverines’ also got the majority of the shots and scoring chances the rest of the way.
“I’m just real proud of the way the guys battled,” Blais said. “Up 2-0, Michigan tied it 2-2. Some teams would have caved, and we didn’t cave. We gained back our composure. Just a tough way to lose a game and end a season.”
Though it’s only the second time the Mavs have advanced to the NCAA tournament, it was tough for Martin to reflect back on the season without disappointment.
“It’s been a great season.We’ve had a lot of success this season,” the senior captain said. “Making it into the tournament was pretty special, but we just didn’t want to make it here. We wanted to win, so it’s bittersweet right now, but I bet in a few weeks I can look back and say that it was a pretty good year.”