Hockey misses big opportunity against No. 1 Minnesota-Deluth

Photo Courtesy of The Omaha World Herald

Joe Franco

The University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey team traveled up north this weekend to take on the No. 1 Minnesota-Deluth Bulldogs on Feb. 4 and 5. In a two-game road series, the struggling Mavericks tied the first game and fell short in the second.

In a chance to take down the best team in the country, UNO’s best night came on Friday, where they battled closely with the top ranked Bulldogs and ended their game in a tie. With some momentum from the first game, it looked as if the second would be just as exciting. UNO forward Tyler Vesel mentioned in UNO’s previous post-press conference on Jan. 31 that the Mavericks were focused heading into this series.

“Whenever you play the number one team, you’re going to play your heart out and try to beat them as bad as you can,” Vesel said.

However, the cold seemed to be contagious for UNO’s offense, as they failed to score a goal and gave up five in the process in the second game to fall short to UMD. Here is a breakdown of each game from this past weekend.

Game 1 Recap

On Friday night, the Mavs earned a 2-2 tie against the top ranked Bulldogs. After battling a 1-0 deficit early in the second period, UNO took advantage of a power play. Senior forward Austin Ortega fed the puck to his defenseman Luc Snuggerud, who fired in a shot to even up the score at one goal apiece.

UNO was down a goal late in the third period when senior defenseman Ian Brady snuck in a goal with just over a minute and a half remaining to tie the game and send it to overtime. After regula-tion and a 3-on-3 overtime, UMD earned an extra standings point when they scored in the first round of the shootout.

Sophomore UNO goalie Evan Weninger stopped 37 of the Bulldogs’ 39 shots on the evening to aid the Mavericks to an overall record of 14-10-5, putting them into a tie with North Dakota for fourth place. This tie was the third straight tie against UMD, dating all the way back to the 2014-2015 season.

In his post-game interview, UMD starting left wing Alex Iafallo tipped his cap to the efforts the Mavs showed in the first game.

“We definitely thought it was going to be a tough game,” Iafallo said. “They were gunning for us.

We are up at the top so we knew they were going to come out hard.”

Game 2 Recap

UMD scored early on in the first period on a rebound shot just a few minutes into regulation. The Bulldogs never looked back and continued their momentum into the second period.

The second period entailed two power play goals from the Bulldogs to expand their lead to 3-0. In the third, they added two more goals, one of which came from former Maverick Avery Peterson.

The blowout win put UMD in a comfortable five-point lead for first place over Denver. Five different players each scored for the Bulldogs, aiding them in going 3-0-1 against UNO on the year. This shutout marks the second straight Saturday in which the Mavericks were held scoreless.

The Mavs are now in fifth place with an overall record of 14-11-5 on the year. They will continue their tough schedule back at home in the Baxter Arena against No. 9 Western Michigan on Feb. 10-11. UNO closes its season against three opponents all ranked inside the top 15, taking on Western Michigan and Denver at home, and traveling to North Dakota in between.

Playing top-tier teams is another great opportunity for UNO to finish the season out strong. Junior defenseman Joel Messner men-tioned that the Mavs have been battling tough opponents in each series they face.

“With all those teams in our conference, that’s why it makes our conference the best conference in college hockey,” Messner said.