The UNO Men’s Hockey team played their first series at Baxter Arena for the 2017-2018 season this past weekend, Oct. 20 and 21, against the Arizona State Sundevils.
Maverick fans began to fill Baxter arena about an hour before the puck dropped to get ready for this highly-anticipated season. Friday night’s home opener couldn’t have gone better for the Mavs. They managed to have a lot of early opportunities in transition against ASU. Both teams’ offenses were able to get some good looks but UNO came away with the first goal on a quick breakaway with about 11 minutes left in the first period. UNO’s Ryan Galt got a hold of the puck long enough to assist the senior forward, Luke Nogard.
The Mavericks got two power plays in the first period but could not capitalize on either while the Sun Devils were short-staffed on the ice. ASU’s first period ended with them being 0-1 on power plays with only six shots on goal compared to UNO’s 12.
Period two began with the same relentless pressure from UNO’s transition offense and the same could be said for ASU. UNO’s senior forward, Tyler Vesel, got away with what might be his easiest goal of the season – looping around the net in transition and quickly sneaking one in the far corner behind ASU’s goalie.
“I think our transition game was really strong today, we knew what they were going to do from watching film and Coach Gabinet was able to set up some practices that really helped us out in preparation for tonight,” said Vesel after Friday night’s victory.
The transition success continued for UNO throughout the second period, Steven Spinner got in on the fun and assisted Mason Morelli about 13 minutes into the period for the Mavs to take a 3-0 lead. ASU managed two more shots on goal than UNO during the second, but couldn’t manage a goal.
The third period was more Maverick domination. Despite a beautiful wrist shot during ASU’s power play with about 15 minutes left in the third from Jakob Stridsberg, UNO seemed to control the rest of the game. Head Coach Mike Gabinet’s explosive Mavs finished the period with two more goals to make the final score 5-1.
“[The score] I thought it was a little bit tighter than that. At times I thought we carried the play and at times I thought they gave us a lot to hand in our D-zone, too,” said Gabinet on Friday night.
Saturday turned out to be a bit different for the Mavs as ASU came out in the second game looking for revenge. Although the Mavericks managed to get out to a very early 2-0 lead off the sticks of David Pope and Tristan Keck in the first three minutes of the game, the Sun Devils were unphased. ASU’s Jakob Stridsberg had an answer five minutes later with about 12 minutes left in the first period, he was assisted by teammate Gage Hough. UNO was 1-1 in their first period power plays while ASU was 0-0.
The Sun Devils were first to strike in the second period, Gvido Janson, assisted by David Norris, tied it up 2-2 just three and a half minutes into the second. The seemingly surprised Mavs bounced back during a power play a few minutes later. Jake Randolph was assisted by Vesel to make it 3-2 with a little over 9 minutes left in the second period. A stalemate of back-and-forth action continued throughout the period with no one scoring a goal. The period ended with a score of 3-2 in favor of the Mavs.
Neither the Sun Devils nor the Mavs could capitalize off early opportunities in the third period, but ASU scored first to tie it 3-3 with 9 minutes left in the third. Nonetheless, a minute later in the third period, UNO’s Vesel capitalized yet again. Assisted by Jordan Klehr, Vesel added another goal to the stat sheet making the score 4-3.
Just as the game was coming to an end, ASU’s Max Balinson stunned the entirety of Baxter Arena when he tied it up 4-4 with only 38 seconds remaining in the third. Neither team got another goal in regulation and headed into an extra five-minute period.
The nerve-wracking fourth period was full of offense, ASU got off two shots compared to UNO’s six. Both teams had opportunities but neither could find the back of the net before time expired. The Mavs were headed to yet another extra period in a three-on-three battle with ASU looking for another win.
The fifth period was even more exciting but filled with less action. Both team’s goalies were outstanding and saved all shots that came their way. Baxter Arena was filled with energy as the Mavs entered their first shootout of the season.
The first UNO shot was taken and missed by sophomore Zach Jordan, and likewise for ASU’s Hough. The Mav’s second shot relied on the stick of Colin Grannary, but he had no luck finding the back of the net either. ASU’s Jack Rowe took their second, and final, shot. Rowe managed to sneak one past for the Sun Devils to leave Omaha with a tie and a 1-0 shootout win.
“[It’s] just a special place to play,” said Gabinet. “What makes it special is the people, the community, the fans and the rink.”
Gabinet and the Mavs are now 2-1- 1 on the season after this weekend. They look forward to traveling this upcoming week on Oct. 26 and 27 to Notre Dame where they face the Fighting Irish.