As if playing the No. 6 team in the country and back-to-back champs on the road wasn’t a difficult enough task, the Mavericks faced an even further uphill battle this weekend thanks to injury and illness.
Already without freshman center Joey Abate, who has now missed the last five games with a lower body injury, Omaha was down even further. Senior forward Tristan Keck, upper body injury, along with senior defenseman and captain Dean Stewart, sickness, were both out of the lineup.
Friday marked the first game Stewart had missed since Jan. 6, 2018, a streak of 80 consecutive games, and the defenseman was sent home early on Saturday. To make matters worse, the Mavericks were without the services of their starting goaltender Saturday night, Isaiah Saville, who was sidelined with an apparent injury.
Even playing shorthanded, the Mavericks still hung with the Bulldogs for most of the series, but ultimately fell short both nights.
The Mavericks fell behind 12:59 in on Friday night, as Kobe Roth tucked home his 12th of the season. Roth’s goal would give UMD the 1-0 lead, which they held after one period
However, Omaha wasted no time responding in the second, as Chayse Primeau buried his seventh of the season 1:49 into the period, his first of two goals on the weekend. The Bulldogs struck back 5:30 later thanks to Quinn Olson’s power play tally, giving his team the lead right back, 2-1.
Noah Cates stretched the lead to two midway through the third period, as he was able to sneak one underneath Saville, and with 10:13 left it was 3-1 Bulldogs. The Mavericks made it interesting though, as Teemu Pulkkinen was the recipient of a Tyler Weiss pass and put it home to make it 3-2. But, the goal was too little too late, and Minnesota-Duluth took game one 3-2.
UMD outshot Omaha 41-26 Friday night and did the same in game two, 39-32.
Saturday night got off to an odd start for UNO, as the previously mentioned Saville took the ice for warmups, but was removed from the starting lineup just over 10 minutes to puck drop. That paved the way for Austin Roden to get the nod between the pipes, his seventh start of the season.
After a scoreless back-and-forth first period, the Bulldogs once again grabbed the first goal of the contest coming off the stick of Justin Richards 1:54 into the second. Just like Friday night, Omaha responded, and Chayse Primeau was able to re-direct his eighth of the season and second of the weekend, tying it 1-1 with 14:50 left in the second.
Primeau’s tally was all for the Mavericks, however, and the Bulldogs went on to score three unanswered goals, never looking back.
After UMD goaltender Hunter Shepard robbed Nolan Sullivan on the doorstep with an acrobatic, diving stick save, the Bulldogs sent the Mavericks back to the locker room with a gut punch.
Defenseman Nick Wolff corralled the loose puck and found Tanner Laderoute open up ice at the Omaha blue line, who came in on a breakaway and put a backhander past Roden, giving UMD a 2-1 lead with just 16.2 seconds left in the period.
There’s a saying in sports that one play, or one save in this case, can win you or cost you a game, and that might have been the case at Amsoil Arena Saturday night. To add insult to injury, UNO defenseman John Schuldt was also called for a hook on Laderoute’s breakaway, giving the Bulldogs a power play which carried over to start the third period.
Omaha killed off the man advantage, but just over a minute later Jade Miller slid a puck past Roden, making it 3-1 with 17:08 left in the game. Miller’s goal was assisted by Laderoute, who was named the second star of the game.
The Bulldogs tacked on an empty netter late from Cole Koepke, making it 4-1, the final score of game two.
Omaha now sits (12-13-5, 6-9-3) on the season, which puts them alone in sixth in the NCHC standings. They are four points back of St. Cloud State and seven back of fourth place Denver. The Mavericks will be off next weekend before returning to action Feb. 21 and 22, a must-win home series with Colorado College.