One night after the Mavericks knocked off the top ranked team in the country, it was the Fighting Hawks who bounced back in game two, topping Omaha 4-1.
In a game where Omaha seemed to be snakebit at times, with four posts and a questionable goaltender interference non-call against, the Mavericks weren’t able to muster up much consistently throughout the night.
The Mavericks were outshot 29-13 in game one, however, Omaha fired six of those shots into the back of the net. Saturday was a different story, and also a bounceback performance by UND goaltender Adam Scheel.
North Dakota outchanced Omaha with 47 attempted shots compared to Omaha’s 40. UND ended up out-shooting the Mavericks 27-19. On top of that, the Mavericks were unable to convert on a huge five-minute power play in the third period and finished 0/4 on the night. The Fighting Hawks went 1/3 on the man advantage.
As if playing the No. 1 team in the country wasn’t enough of a challenge coming in, UNO would also be shorthanded heading into game two. Defenseman Jason Smallidge, who did not return Friday after being hit in the knee, was out of the lineup. To make matters worse, forward Kevin Conley and defenseman Alex Roy were both injured and tended to on the ice Saturday night. However, both would return shortly after.
Joey Abate was also shaken up after he was on the receiving end of a Shane Pinto crosscheck to the head, which resulted in a five-minute major and a game misconduct for Pinto. All of this on top of defenseman Kirby Proctor, who was not available for the weekend. No matter what though, Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet and his team will not use that as an excuse, as both teams had their chances.
The Fighting Hawks opened up the scoring just over halfway through the first period, this after getting off to a very fast start. North Dakota generated 12 shot attempts in the first 7:30. With 11:30 left in the opening frame, senior Casey Johnson fired a shot on goal and past Omaha netminder Isaiah Saville, who was down on the ice as the puck crossed the line.
Saville was tangled up with UND forward Dixon Bowen at the top of the crease on the play, raising the question of goaltender interference. After a long review, however, it was ruled a good goal, giving North Dakota a 1-0 lead.
A little over six minutes later, Collin Adams buried a Grant Mismash feed, who made the play happen with his effort. The goal was the seventh of the season for Adams, making it 2-0 with 5:19 left in the first.
North Dakota was not done though and added a backbreaking goal late in the period. After breaking up a UND rush, the Mavericks couldn’t control a loose puck at the side of their net and ultimately in the slot, which Mark Senden cashed in on.
The goal was the second of the weekend and fourth of the season for Senden, coming with just 18.9 seconds left in the period. With the goal, Omaha went back to the locker room trailing 3-0 on the scoreboard and 14-7 in the shot department.
However, the Mavericks came out strong and started gaining some momentum of their own early in the second. After Tristan Keck fired a shot off the post you might’ve been able to hear in Omaha, UNO finally broke the ice.
With Scheel out of his net to play the puck, Taylor Ward got the puck in the corner and put it in the net for his team-leading 12th of the season. The Fighting Hawks goaltender argued for goalie interference at first, but to no avail, making it 3-1 with 12:55 left in the second.
That was the only tally for the crimson and black, however. The Mavericks received a golden opportunity in the third period with a 5-minute man advantage, but they were unable to convert. Omaha only generated one shot on goal during that power play, this after having zero shots on their first two power plays of the night.
Shane Pinto (who was later ejected in the third period) tacked on one more after Ward’s tally with a power play marker at the 10:19 mark of the second, making it 4-1– the final score of game two. This was the 10th goal of the season for Pinto, a World Junior teammate of Isaiah Saville.
With the loss, the Mavericks fall to (9-10-3, 3-6-1) on the season and currently sit tied for sixth in the NCHC conference standings. North Dakota improves to an impressive (17-2-2, 8-1-1), putting them three points ahead of Minnesota-Duluth atop the conference.
In the end, there are a lot of positives for Gabinet’s group to build on going forward, especially getting back into NCHC play with a split against the No. 1 team in the country. These two teams will battle again later this season, March 6-7th at Baxter Arena, in what looks to be another tight, physical series.
Speaking of Baxter Arena, the Mavericks will return home next weekend to take on current No. 5 Denver. Omaha hasn’t played in their home barn since Dec. 21st and 22nd, a series they split with Arizona State. Opening faceoffs are scheduled for 7:07 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night.
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