The UNO Hockey team took the ice for the final regular season series against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena on March 2 and 3.
Both teams were looking for a series sweep to strengthen their seed for the upcoming NCHC tournament beginning next weekend. UMD is currently third in the conference while UNO sits in fifth. The teams split their first season series that took place in early December on Omaha’s home rink.
The Bulldog offense was first to strike in game one on Friday night, UMD’s Joey Anderson scored the first goal of the game for them only 3:24 into the first period and took an early 1-0 lead at home. UNO was quick to answer, a little more than three minutes later the Maverick sophomore Zach Jordan was able to get the puck past UMD’s goalie to make the score 1-1. Each squad earned themselves a power play opportunity in the first period but were unable to score and the period ended in a 1-1 tie.
The second period began with more relentless offense from both teams, but UNO was able to break the tie off the stick of Jake Randolph who scored about seven and a half minutes in making it 2-1 for the Mavs. The second period rolled on without another goal from either UMD or UNO and the Mavericks took their advantage into the third and final period. Despite UMD getting off five shots during their PP, the score remained 2-1.
After shutting out the Bulldogs in the second period, UNO seemed to gain more confidence on the ice. It would take some time but the Maverick offense continued to score, Tristan Keck found himself an opportunity in which he scored to lift the Mavs to a 3-1 lead with 8:45 remaining on the clock. Steven Spinner also scored a goal for UNO with one second remaining in the game to solidify UNO’s 4-1 win in game one. UMD was 0/3 on power plays for the evening and UNO’s Evan Weninger was able to rack up 41 saves during the contest.
Game two of the series would pan out a bit different for UNO, after jumping out to a 1-0 lead late in the first period off a goal from Martin Sundberg, UMD would go on to control the rest of the game.
During a huge second period for the Bulldogs, Karson Kuhlman, Scott Perunovich and Joey Anderson scraped together three goals in an eight-minute span beginning around the 10-minute mark to take an insurmountable lead. UNO failed to provide any answer for the high-flying Bulldog offense and would be shut out in the second, entering the third period down 3-1.
Both teams continued to fight and UNO would try to overcome the two-point deficit but UMD’s defense didn’t budge. The Bulldogs went 1/2 on their third period power plays with Joey Anderson scoring his second goal of the night during the second PP with two minutes remaining in the game to make it 4-1. UNO went 0/7 on their power plays during Saturday nights and lost game two of the series by three goals.
After splitting yet another series with the UMD Bulldogs, UNO turns its attention toward the NCHC tournament on March 9 where they will travel again to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to face the fourth-seeded Fighting Hawks. UNO ended the regular season fifth in their conference with an NCHC record of 10-13-1 and a 17-15-2 overall record on the season. Prior to this season, UNO had never beat North Dakota at Baxter Arena. They did that this year, while also taking the first game in Grand Forks. If Omaha’s goaltender Evan Weninger stays hot and continues to see the puck well, Omaha can have more than a puncher’s chance of upsetting the mighty Fighting Hawks.