Mavericks open 2020-21 season with 5-3 loss to Minnesota-Duluth


Jordan McAlpine

The Mavericks celebrate Nolan Sullivan’s goal in the first period to tie it 1-1. Photo taken by Mark Kuhlman, NCHC.

After 269 days off, NCHC hockey returned to Baxter Arena Tuesday afternoon as the Mavericks fell to Minnesota-Duluth 5-3 to open the 2020-21 season.

“I thought we could’ve won that hockey game,” said Omaha Head Coach Mike Gabinet. “We played really well. Obviously, they capitalized on a couple of their opportunities that cost us, but any time you outshoot the defending national championship team you’re doing a lot of good things. Overall very pleased with our guys, obviously not the result we wanted, but very proud of the effort.”

Across the rink, the Bulldogs got off to a strong start in the Pod much in thanks to four third period goals. It proved to be the difference, as Minnesota-Duluth found a way to capitalize on their chances.

“I thought our guys had a really good third period,” said Minnesota-Duluth Head Coach Scott Sandelin. “Took advantage of the power play to even the game and I thought Kobe Roth’s goal was big time. Tough angle, but our guys had a good third and showed some character.

“Lots of ebbs and flows, up and downs in the game, certainly wasn’t perfect, but lots of good things to build on and proud of our team for getting the win.”

The Bulldogs opened the scoring a mere 1:52 in, as Koby Bender tipped a shot past Omaha netminder Isaiah Saville. Bender also picked up an assist later in the contest.

However, Omaha would respond. Nolan Sullivan put home his first of the season, a rebound from a Martin Sundberg shot to tie it 1-1. Sundberg picked up a goal of his own 8:25 later, a redirection of Kirby Proctor shot, giving Omaha a 2-1 lead. The Mavericks would carry that lead all the way to the 18:57 mark of the third period.

“I actually think we did a good job of jumping into the game with tempo and played pretty quickly,” Sundberg said. “I think we played pretty well right off the bat.”

Minnesota-Duluth tied it up at two 1:03 into the third period thanks to a Jackson Cates goal on the 5-on-3 advantage. Cates goal came moments after a Nolan Sullivan shot block, which left him playing without a stick, and a Brandon Scanlin blocked shot that prevented a golden opportunity moments before.

Cates’ tally was the first of two power play and four goals the Bulldogs scored in the third period.

“Obviously it’s been about nine months now,” Cates said. “So it feels nice to get the kinks out, get back to game speed and get back to game shape. I’m just happy to be with the boys and get a character win.

“The power play was huge for us in the third. The execution is the biggest difference-maker- that’s the difference between winning and losing a game.”

Kobe Roth gave the Bulldogs the lead with 11:18 left in the final frame and they never looked back.

After coming into the zone with a 4-on-2 rush, Roth’s shot ricocheted off the back of Saville and in. Roth said he didn’t see the opening until the last second, but his goal ended up being the difference in what proved to be a pivotal third period.

“After the first two periods, we knew we had more,” Roth said. “Every team in the NCHC is good, you’re never going to have easy games, so going into that period we knew we had to have a good one and play together as a team, so really happy with how we played in the third.”

After a Joey Abate boarding penalty, Noah Cates stretched the UMD lead to two just 18 seconds into the man advantage. Cates tipped a Nick Swaney shot past Saville, also assisted by his brother Jackson.

The Mavericks made it interesting late in the game as Jack Randl netted his first collegiate goal. That paired with a Louie Roehl cross-checking penalty and gave Omaha a power play with 1:08 left, and a chance to tie.

The opportunity would be short-lived, however, as Hunter Lellig fired one from deep into his own end into the Omaha net. Lellig’s goal gave his group a 5-3 lead, the final score of this one.

“I think you work a long time to prepare for this,” said Omaha Head Coach Mike Gabinet. “I know our guys were excited to play and we’re grateful for the opportunity to compete right now with what’s going in the outside world.”

With the win, Minnesota-Duluth now owns a 10 game win streak over the Mavericks. Omaha drops to 11-26-3 in the all-time series between the two schools.

The Mavericks will return to action Thursday for a matchup with Western Michigan at 7:35 p.m. Minnesota-Duluth won’t have to wait long, as they’ll play Denver tomorrow night at 7:35 p.m. on the short turn around.



Koby Bender (1), Matt Cairns and Dairan Gotz (1:52) 1-0 Minnesota-Duluth

Nolan Sullivan (1) Martin Sundberg (6:38) 1-1

Martin Sundberg (1) Kirby Proctor and Jack Randl (15:03) PPG 2-1 Omaha





Jackson Cates (1) Cole Koepke, Nick Swaney (1:03) PPG 2-2

Kobe Roth (1) Koby Bender (11:18) 3-2 Minnesota-Duluth

Noah Cates (1) Nick Swaney, Jackson Cates (15:42) PPG 4-2 Minnesota-Duluth

Jack Randl (1) Tyler Weiss, Nate Knoepke (18:52) 4-3 Minnesota-Duluth

Hunter Lellig (1) (19:04) ENG 5-3 Minnesota-Duluth


SOG: Omaha 13-8-8-29, Minnesota-Duluth 9-8-10-27.

Power Play: Omaha 1/6, Minnesota Duluth 2/6.

Faceoffs: Omaha 11-8-13-32  Minnesota-Duluth 8-13-14-35.


They Said It 

On playing in an empty arena:

“Honestly I didn’t even notice it,” Gabinet said. “Once the game gets going you’re not worried about whether it’s a packed building or an empty one, you’re just worried about getting your guys ready to go. Nice to be back behind the bench again from a coaching standpoint.”

“It wasn’t as big of a difference as I thought it was going to be,” Roth said. ‘We’re not going to have fans here to get us going, we’ve got to do it ourselves. I was happy with how everyone communicated on the bench.”

“I think we’re all very happy to be back playing, so it really didn’t affect us at all,” Sundberg said. “We definitely miss the fans. Especially in Omaha, we have such a big fan base and everyone kind of contributes to the game atmosphere, so we definitely miss them, but I think all the boys came together to push each other and to bring that atmosphere within the group.”

On the power play chances:

“Even if we weren’t scoring, we were taking momentum from it at least,” Roth said. “That’s going to be huge throughout all of this. I thought both power plays did a good job. That goal there at the end was huge for us.”

“I didn’t think our power play was particularly sharp,” Sandelin said. “I thought we didn’t get enough pucks to the net, we were losing faceoffs all night which was a concern, but they scored when they had to.”


Today marked collegiate game #100 for Omaha captain Kevin Conley. He’s also closing in on the 50 point mark, currently at 47. Here’s my feature on the captain from earlier today:

With an assist today, Tyler Weiss now has six career points against Minnesota-Duluth. He’s the active leader on the Omaha roster.