For the first time this season, the Mavericks were not the team to score first. No. 13 Omaha took a 1-0 lead in all five of their previous games this season, but that was the score they trailed Alaska by at the end of the first period on Sunday afternoon.
However, that deficit was erased as the Mavericks responded with five unanswered goals on their way to a 5-1 win and a second straight series sweep.
“Nice to get the second win on Sunday afternoon here,” said Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet. “I really liked our second and third periods and I thought we made smart decisions on entries, got pucks deeper in the offensive zone and got numbers and support to the puck, which was really important for us to be successful against a hard team like that.
“They’re a good team, they forecheck hard and it’s really nice to see us up our battle level a little bit and get rewarded with (five) goals.”
Antti Virtanen gave the Nanooks a 1-0 lead 3:59 into the contest, but the scoring was all Omaha from there. After getting out to the slow start, the Mavericks tied the game just before the midway point of the second period. Omaha used two goals from both Taylor Ward and Chayse Primeau and sandwiched a last-second power play goal from Brannon McManus in between at the end of the second.
Ward’s first goal of the contest came 9:20 into the middle frame and tied the game at 1-1. His fourth of the season, Ward wound up for a one-timer at the top of the right circle and buried a Tyler Weiss feed past Alaska goaltender Gustavs Grigals. It was the first of three second-period Omaha goals.
“You look at the first goal to get us going, Weisser stops on a puck and finds Wardo in that soft ice,” Gabinet said. “They’re not flying by, staying in the battle, doing the right things and another good opportunity there. When those guys get the puck in those good areas, that’s when they can be special.”
His first of his two goals of the night, Ward said it was a little bit of a set play and something he and Weiss have been working on in practice. It boiled down to execution.
“It was actually something we were working on in practice this week,” Ward said. “We thought that in a breakdown in (defensive) zone coverage we could find those little soft areas inside the circle. It was a great play by him — he created a turnover, stopped on the puck, got his head up and snapped it right in my wheelhouse.”
Primeau followed to give Omaha the lead with 3:02 left in the second. After Ward shot one from the slot, Weiss had a chance and Primeau shoveled the rebound home. The Mavericks never looked back.
“I heard Wardo calling for it when I was going down the wall and just kind of slid it to him,” Primeau said. “Me and Weisser were actually talking between periods, we thought he (Ward) was going to shoot it, but he found Weisser backdoor.”
The goal was the first game-winner of the season for Primeau. McManus stretched the lead to 3-1 with 0.08 seconds left in the second. That goal, along with Ward’s second goal of the night in the third period, both came on the power play. The Mavericks converted on two of their four chances.
“I think sometimes we’re still not executing perfectly or to the standard that we want to, but it’s not bad and it’s looking pretty good early in the season,” Ward said of the unit. “We’re just going to keep growing on that.”
Primeau’s second goal, which was once again a result of being in the right place at the right time, came 5:56 into the third period as he tapped in the rebound off of another Weiss shot. Ward added one more with 11:38 left to make it 5-1. Isaiah Saville stopped 19 of the 20 shots fired his way and picked up his fifth win of the season.
Omaha is now 5-1-0 on the season. They’ll be off next weekend before facing Long Island University on Oct. 29 and 30.
Unfamiliar territory playing from behind
The Mavericks got off to arguably their slowest start of the season Sunday afternoon and saw the opposition strike first for the first time through six games. Alaska outshot Omaha 11-9 in the opening period and controlled much of the play.
“We weren’t happy with our first period and unlike a couple days ago, I thought we came out and pushed the pace in the second,” Ward said. “Just played to our identity, stuck to our game plan and it all worked out.”
The opposite of game one, where the Mavericks gave up a pair of goals and were mostly outplayed in the second, Omaha responded. The Mavericks played their best hockey of the game over the final 40 minutes.
“You always get a chance to control how you respond to things that happen and it was nice to see the guys get back to our identity and our DNA as a team that makes us successful,” Gabinet said. “I thought we showed that in the second and third period.”
Primeau said the difference was doing the little things right. The goals came because of it.
“That’s a good hockey team over there and we knew we had to come out in the second period with a good response,” Primeau said. “I think we did that and once we got rolling good things started to happen.”
Ward and Primeau rewarded
Two of Omaha’s top scorers last season, it’s no secret both Ward and Primeau will need to find that scoring touch again this season — especially if this Omaha team wants to play at the level they think they can. Ward, Primeau and Weiss combined for 10 points in the win.
The Mavericks’ head coach wasn’t surprised to see Ward, who now leads the team with five goals, and Primeau, who is tied for second with four, get rewarded with two goals each.
“It’s important that your top guys are your hardest workers and live your core values the best,” Gabinet said. “When those guys are doing all those little things, what does everyone else have the choice to do? It’s very, very important that those guys continue to be our leaders not only scoring-wise, but also in their play away from the puck.”
What was initially ruled no goal on the ice, that call was overturned after approximately a two-minute review. McManus put one over the shoulder of Grigals from the top of the crease for his second goal of the season.
”Got a little bit fortunate on the other end,” Gabinet said. “(Saville) makes a big save and we countered. Great play by (Brock) Bremer and Primeau fed him that puck, so nice vision, and he (McManus) finished it up in the slot. Usually when you ask the goal scorer if it went in or not they usually know. He thought it was in, so nice to get that goal to go up by two.”
The officials added 0.08 seconds back on the clock following the review. For those on the ice, there was little doubt about whether it beat the clock or not.
“I honestly thought the only thing they were looking at was goalie interference,” Primeau said. “I knew it went in and then I heard the buzzer.”
Heading into a bye
With no games next weekend, the Mavericks are heading into their first bye of the season. They’ll take Monday off and resume practice on Tuesday. It’s a good chance to recover injury-wise and to further improve conditioning levels this week.
“We lost Sundy (Martin Sundberg) tonight and Cons (Kevin Conley) for a bit and had a little bit of a short bench, so we can let those guys recover,” Gabinet said.
At the same time, everyone knows the competition that’s around the corner. The Mavericks open conference play in three weeks against Miami and travel to St. Cloud State the following week. The work continues this week.
“We always have to improve,” Gabinet said. “I think there’s a lot we need to get better at, so it’s good to have some recovery time during the bye week and also get better at certain areas of our game. I thought we needed more o-zone time, and we did that tonight, but we need to continue to work on that.”
Lady Byng out the window
The Lady Byng Trophy is given to the NHL player that best exemplifies sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct on the ice, while also being an effective player. Primeau joked he would’ve taken himself out of contention for the award Friday night if there was such an award at the collegiate level.
“I wasn’t happy after the Friday game — it was a little frustrating,” Primeau said, who came into the game with just 12 total career penalties in 90 games. “I had four (penalties) in one game, so I knew I owed the boys a good game and I’m just glad I could help out the boys tonight and not end up in the box four times.”
The four penalties was a new single-game career-high for Primeau, who entered this season with just 10 total penalties in his collegiate career. Primeau was penalty-free on Sunday, but he has been called for six penalties already this season.
News and Notes
- Tyler Weiss had three assists in the win.
- Brock Bremer picked up his first point of the season with an assist on the McManus goal.
- Martin Sundberg was hit as the second period came to a close and immediately went down the tunnel favoring his shoulder. Gabinet said after the game it “doesn’t look great” with Sundberg’s injury and he is going to miss some time.
- Freshman Cameron Berg was held out of the lineup Sunday afternoon. Berg was banged up in game one of the series and Gabinet said the freshman center was held out of game two as a precaution.
- Gabinet also provided an update on defenseman Jonny Tychonick, who hasn’t played since the Oct. 3 game against Lake Superior State. Tychonick’s injury is more serious than originally thought. Gabinet said the defenseman is still “a ways away” from being back on the ice.
- Kevin Conley was upended on a hit just inside the Alaska zone 40 seconds into the third period. What looked to be a serious injury at first, Conley landed hard on his shoulder and stayed down in pain. He went down the tunnel right away but returned a little over four minutes later. Conley played the rest of the game.
- With Sunday’s win, the Mavericks have now won five straight. That’s the longest during Gabinet’s tenure as head coach and the first five-game streak since the 2015-16 season.
- Sunday was arguably the best game Kaden Bohlsen has played in an Omaha sweater. With Berg out, Bohlsen slotted in as the fourth center. He had three shots on goal.
- Four players (Ward, Primeau, Miller and Randl) have combined for 16 of Omaha’s 23 goals this season.
- Alaska still leads the all-time series 23-19-11 after this weekend. However, the Mavericks are now 12-10-5 in games played in Omaha during the series. The two teams will meet again on Nov. 19 and 20 in Fairbanks.