After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead and holding a 3-2 lead late in the third period, the Mavericks suffered a 4-3 overtime season-opening loss against Lake Superior State Saturday night at Baxter Arena.
“Not the outcome we wanted,” said Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet. “Thought we deserved a better fate, thought we carried the play for the majority of the game, but they’re a good hockey team. They hung around and hung around and then ultimately capitalized on their opportunities and we didn’t close them out.”
Carried the play indeed. The Mavericks outshot LSSU 40-19 and led 84-45 in shot attempts on the night. They outshot the Lakers 18-3 in the second period alone and only had one goal to show for it, which was a common theme throughout the night.
The Mavericks struck early as Matt Miller picked up his first of the season 3:14 into the contest. Set-up by a beautiful Jack Randl cut to the slot near the top of the near circle, Randl fired one high over the glove of LSSU goaltender Seth Eisele. A shot that ricocheted off the post, Miller cleaned up the loose puck in the crease to give the home side the early 1-0 lead.
Omaha wasted little time extending that lead to 2-0. Speaking of wasting little time, Brannon McManus needed only 6:33 to make an impact in an Omaha sweater. After LSSU defenseman Grant Hindman covered the puck with his hand in the crease, the fifth-year transfer from Minnesota was awarded a penalty shot and picked the top right corner for his first Maverick goal.
“I’ve been working on a move for the last summer and it was kind of just a little flick,” McManus said. “I noticed that goalies kind of struggle with it a little bit so I gave it a shot and a good outcome.”
The two-goal cushion was short-lived, however. Just 1:01 later, Brandon Puricelli answered with a beautiful shot into the top corner, trimming the Omaha lead to 2-1. The Lakers weren’t done scoring in the opening period and Puricelli wasn’t done on the night either.
With 2:11 left in the first, Dawson Tritt corralled a loose puck at the top of the crease and fired it past a sprawled-out Isaiah Saville. Tritts’ goal sent the teams back to the dressing room tied 2-2 after 20 minutes.
After largely dominating the second period and having constant pressure in the LSSU zone, especially on the power play, the Mavericks finally broke through late. Chayse Primeau notched his first goal of the season with 1:37 left in the frame, assisted by Taylor Ward and Kirby Proctor, to give Omaha a 3-2 advantage. They held that advantage until the 18:56 mark of the third period.
“We came out strong, we had a lot of positives in the game, but there are little mistakes we obviously have to clean up and close out the game,” said sophomore Jimmy Glynn. “We just need to be stronger in those aspects.”
LSSU’s Harrison Roy knocked home a rebound with 1:04 left to force overtime and Puricelli fired one past Saville’s blocker 3:08 into the extra frame, giving the Lakers a 4-3 win. Game two of the series is Sunday at 4:07 p.m. CT.
McManus makes Maverick debut
In addition to scoring a goal in his Omaha debut, McManus finished the night with four shots on goal and was very noticeable in the offensive zone. Looking at the big picture though, it was nice to finally play at Baxter Arena.
“It was pretty special,” he said. “Coming from Minnesota and coming here, but finally seeing fans too was really special for me and a really good experience.”
Saturday night’s game was a long time coming. It’s been circled on his calendar since he officially announced he was transferring in April.
“It’s hard waiting for a game like this today,” he said. “You have a long offseason and the anticipation is kind of crazy, so I’m thankful we have a quick turnaround tomorrow.”
One of the biggest positives from the loss was the play of sophomore center Jimmy Glynn. Glynn, who started the night centering Kevin Conley and McManus, was flying around the LSSU zone throughout the contest and registered two shots on goal. He hit a post, had multiple other scoring chances and made several plays that won’t show up in the box score.
It goes back to a strong camp performance by No. 22.
“Camp is always intense,” he said. “We’ve got so many good guys coming in, and it makes you elevate your game on and off the ice. You’ve just got to be at your best and that’s what I think makes our team great is we have so many great guys and we elevate each other.”
Gabinet praised the play of Glynn, who saw more ice time as the game went on and was rewarded for his effort. His speed and attacking pressure were especially evident.
“Lots of puck pressure, lots of hounding the puck and lots of o-zone time in their zone,” he said.
Mavericks dominate offensively, results don’t show
As if the shot totals aren’t telling enough, the Mavericks moved the puck around the LSSU zone almost at ease for portions of the contest and seemed to do everything right. The goals just never came to show for it.
It’d be easy to get frustrated and hang your head on the ice or on the bench. However, that wasn’t the case on the home side.
“Every game you’re going to have bounces that won’t go in,” Glynn said. “We were still pretty positive on the bench, a little down right when they happened, but the boys did a good job of saying ‘get back out there, let’s get back to the game we know how to play.’”
Omaha also controlled the faceoff dots for most of the game and led 42-21 in that department. Establishing that pressure and the zone time was a big positive from the first game of the season. Now it’s about cleaning it up in their own end.
“We’re not going to stop grinding away in the offensive zone, but it came down to some defensive mistakes,” McManus said. “Flying away from pucks and we’ve just got to have better structure in our D-zone. We’ll fix it and be better tomorrow.”
It’s one of the biggest cliches in hockey that sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. That was the case for this Omaha group tonight, but luckily, it’s a quick turnaround.
“It’s not easy losing a game like that, especially when you give up a goal late in the third,” McManus said. “It’s a learning experience for sure, but we’ve got to find a way to win those games. Good thing it’s the first game, we’ve got a lot to work on, and we’ll see what we’re made out of for sure.”
As demoralizing of a loss as this can be, especially to start the season, Gabinet said it’s key they stick with the process. In some regards, a little early season adversity isn’t a bad thing.
“You’ve got to be upset about it, but it’s adversity and I don’t mind it,” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy season. You’ve got some returning players, but it’s not going to be an easy road. You can only control what you can control, you’ve got to regroup, take the positives out of tonight and continue to build on what we can get better at.”
News and Notes
- Saturday night saw the collegiate debut of Cameron Berg and Victor Mancini. Berg had two shots, neither on net, and also saw time on the power play. Mancini finished the night with five shots, one of those being on goal, and was sound defensively. He finished the night with a +1 plus/minus.
- With Saturday’s loss, Gabinet is 2-2-1 in season-openers during his coaching tenure at Omaha.
- Omaha is now 16-10-5 in the all-time series against LSSU.
- The McManus penalty shot goal was the first penalty shot attempt by a Maverick since Tristan Keck’s at Arizona State on Oct. 27, 2018.
- The Mavericks debuted a 25th anniversary alternate jersey Saturday night, which will be worn again this season, and hung a banner commemorating their 2021 NCAA Regional appearance.
- Martin Sundberg and Jason Smallidge were both scratched Saturday night. Gabinet didn’t provide any reasoning on either, but he did say there will be changes made to the lineup. It wouldn’t be a surprise if one of those two or Kaden Bohlsen are in the lineup for game two.