By Nick Beaulieu, Editor-In-Chief
Boston Bound: UNO punches a ticket to the Frozen 4
They weren’t satisfied with Saturday. No, these Mavericks wanted more.
And they got it.
Having already made history Saturday night defeating Harvard for their first NCAA tournament win in program history, Sunday, they did it again by defeating Rochester Institute of Technology 4-0.
It was the Mavericks’ first Frozen Four berth is program history.
Jake Randolph scored at 1:01 in the third period and it opened the flood gates for more.
“I’m certainly very proud of this team and what they’ve accomplished,” head coach Dean Blais said. “Going to Boston in two weeks.”
UNO scored another three following, with goals coming from Austin Ortega, Justin Parizek, and David Pope and UNO to seal it at 4-0.
Despite a lot of action, the first period saw no goals.
Brandon Thompson was ejected from the game in the first period on a misconduct penalty for his hit on Grant Gallo near the UNO bench. The freshman would not return and the weak power play that came from it had head coach Dean Blais worried.
“I think we got a little bit rattled when Grant Gallo got hit into the boards and our power play wasn’t all that efficient,” Blais said. “I think we just got nervous and then we settled down in the second and third periods and obviously found a way to win.”
In the second period, the chances continued to improve for both sides. UNO and RIT each had 12 shots in the second, including a few chances for both sides where the puck sat alone in the crease. But still, neither side was able to send it home.
In the third, that golden chance finally came. Taking a pass from Snuggerud just past the blue line, Jake Randolph fired a shot high that flew past Ruby.
“It started in our own zone, all five guys making an effort to get it out and [Luc] Snuggerud made a great play,” Randolph said. “I thought he sucked that D out and gave me a great lane to shoot. It’s been a while [scoring a goal] but it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
In both games this weekend the Mavs avoided taking bad penalties unlike their opponents.
“We’ve lost games during the year on bad penalties, undisciplined penalties,” Blais said. “The best discipline is self-discipline. When a player’s got the chance to make a check, he’s got to decide at the last minute to either execute it or back off. I thought that the guys did a good job of not taking those selfish penalties, those individualistic, ego penalties. That was key.”
The veteran coach certainly didn’t foresee a Frozen Four berth with a squad that started with 11 freshman. To see one of them get the goal that really mattered to get them there, he was proud of how the team as whole has allowed for the youth to flourish.
“We’ve talked about this before with how unselfish the players are. Even the seniors and juniors have to take a back door sometimes to the freshmen getting power play and penalty kill time,” Blais said. “It’s not easy to do in today’s society, to let the younger players take over. But that’s the type of team they are, and they really came together over the summer in our weightlifting program. They got to know each other and I think that’s where it all started. It’s certainly a unique bunch of kids.”
Ryan Massa got the shutout and was named the Midwest regional player of the year. From early season bailouts to this one, Massa has been the most valuable Maverick and as a senior, this win was a special one for him.
“Going into that third period, us four seniors stood up and took charge of that locker room,” Massa said. “We removed all doubt from every guy in that room. Randy [Jake Randolph] came out … and I don’t know how he did it, he doesn’t even do that in practice, but he found a way to hit that pipe and put it in and then the floodgates just opened. He had unreal patience, setting up Teggy [Austin Ortega] for that goal and fed Justin [Parizek] to put that puck in. From there it was just a great way to finish a game and put our team in a great position to win a national title.”
UNO will face Providence, who defeated Denver of the NCHC conference, in the next round April 9th in Boston. The winner will face the victor of Boston vs. North Dakota on the other side of the bracket in the NCAA championship game.
When UNO opens their new arena next season, it will have some fancy new artwork to go with it. A Frozen Four banner. The first one ever.
Catch continuous coverage of the UNO hockey team as they travel to Boston in 10 days on the quest for a national championship.