By Nate Tenopir – Senior Staff Writer
Freshman forward Johnnie Searfoss scored UNO’s only goal of the series as the Mavericks got swept in last weekend’s trip to fellow conference newcomer Bemidji State. It was the Mavs’ first weekend without a single conference point since last year’s December trip to Ferris State.
The two losses at the hands of the Beavers equal the total number of losses UNO has suffered in its first 12 games of the season. The Mavs remain fourth in the conference at 13 points, behind leaders Minnesota-Duluth (19), North Dakota (18) and Denver (17).
The one factor working in the Mavs’ favor is that they have played two less games than all three teams in front of them. However, head coach Dean Blais said, if they’re going to catch the conference leaders, it will take an effort much better than the Mavs put forth against Bemidji State.
“There were a few glaring mistakes that we can’t be making,” said Blais. “We can’t have our defensemen throwing the puck away and turning it over like we did. But we also only scored one goal on 40 shots, so that’s not very good execution.”
The UNO players had been on break the previous weekend due to the Thanksgiving holiday and had the look of a team who never quite returned from its time off. Overall, the Mavs’ performance was plagued by few scoring chances, multiple turnovers and failed special teams.
On Friday, UNO was trailing 2-0 after two periods of play and 21-13 in shots on goal. The Beavers were creating numerous odd-man rushes to the Maverick goal and left little to no space for UNO to attack the middle of the Bemidji State zone.
What the Mavericks were able to find in terms of offense usually came on bad angle shots that Beaver sophomore goaltender Dan Bakala had little difficulty turning away. With the score 1-0 in favor of Bemidji State, UNO had a golden opportunity to net the equalizer and take the lead when a five-minute major penalty was called on Beaver sophomore defenseman Brad Hunt, followed by a two-minute minor penalty on Beaver junior forward Matt Read.
However, in the 1:13 for which the Mavs had a 5-on-3 advantage, they were unable to muster a shot and had the opportunity nullified when Searfoss was penalized for slashing. Skating at 4-on-4, UNO then gave up a two-on-one that forced UNO freshman center Brock Montpetit to take a hooking penalty to avoid a Bemidji goal.
When the Beavers’ penalties expired, they had their own 5-on-3 for 1:16 and capitalized on their chance when junior forward Ian Low beat Mav sophomore goalie John Faulkner to make it 2-0 in favor of Bemidji State. UNO found some offense the rest of the way, outshooting the Beavers to end the night tied at 25 shots apiece, but failed on two more power play opportunities.
Bemidji won more battles for the puck and shut out the conference’s leading offense for the first time this season. It was also the first time this year that the Beavers won on a Friday night.
Though the Mavs came out Saturday night with a much better performance than that of the night before, they let a 1-0 lead slip away and were held scoreless in the last 50-plus minutes of the game.
Searfoss got UNO’s lone goal of the weekend 9:29 into the first period on an assist from sophomore forward Alex Hudson and senior forward Joey Martin. The Mavs created a flurry of shots on Bakala twice more before the period ended, but were unable to extend the lead.
UNO senior defenseman Eric Olimb was whistled for high-sticking with only 1:14 remaining in the second period and the Beavers scored on the ensuing power play right as the buzzer sounded to end the period. Bemidji State freshman forward Aaron McLeod scored on Faulkner to give the Beavers their first lead of the night, 3:14 into the third period.
A hard slap shot by Beaver freshman forward Jordan George with four and a half minutes remaining put the Beavers up 3-1 and sealed the weekend sweep. Though Bemidji State has been very competitive this year, losing by just one goal on more than one occasion, the Beavers sat only 3-8-1 overall and 2-7-1 before their sweep over UNO.
“We kind of ran into a hot goalie there and he made a few really big saves,” said Martin. “They’re a hard-working team so give them credit, but this definitely is a disappointing loss for us.”
As part of the same WCHA pod, the Mavs play Bemidji State, North Dakota and St. Cloud State both at home and away before the season is over. After three more series to end the calendar year, UNO will see the Beavers again in its first competition of 2011.