Mavs make late comeback but fall in OT to No. 4 UND

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Jordan McAlpine
SPORTS EDITOR

Taylor Ward scored the tying goal with 56 seconds left in regulation. Ward now has 56 career goals, which ranks 6th in program history. Photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics.

OMAHA, Neb. – No. 20 Omaha fell in overtime Friday night at Baxter Arena, 5-4, but by no means was it due to a lack of effort in the third period. For the second time this season, the Mavericks erased a two-goal deficit in the third against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

However, Friday night, it was No. 4 UND that walked away victorious in the extra session.

“Great third period by the guys to come back and tie it up there,” said Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet. “Emotional game. A lot of highs and lows throughout the game, but great job by our group to come back and find a way (to tie it).”

Gabinet said after the game that the message on the bench was simple: keep working. Omaha controlled the play for much, if not all, of the third and ended up outshooting UND 16-3 in the period. The Mavericks also generated chances galore, especially on a pair of third-period power plays.

It’s a hard loss to swallow, but Gabinet said he is happy with how his team continued to chip away.

“That’s what you have to do,” he said. “You don’t know when you’re going to get rewarded and you have to stick with it. We talked about that mental preparation for the playoffs going into this weekend. You’re going to deal with adversity and different situations, and you have to have emotional control when you face those situations.”

Speaking of the playoffs, Omaha’s overtime loss, coupled with St. Cloud State earning a point in Duluth, has locked Omaha into sixth in the NCHC standings. The Mavericks will travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan, next weekend to face Western Michigan.

As for Friday night’s game, Jake Schmaltz gave UND a 1-0 lead 8:45 in, but the Mavericks responded less than four minutes later. Cameron Berg netted his eighth of the season off a faceoff, only to see UND answer before the end of the period.

The next two goals, and two of the next three, ended up in the back of the Omaha net. Cooper Moore made it 2-1 with 1:24 left in the opening period as he fired home a power-play blast. Moore’s goal came just nine seconds into a 4-on-3 power play.

Griffin Ness then doubled the lead with another power-play goal, as he capitalized on a Brock Bremer turnover in the Omaha zone. Ness’ goal came on a five-minute power-play, which was the result of a Joey Abate boarding major. Abate’s penalty was one of two majors in the game and one of three plays that went to review.

“It’s a tough game to evaluate when it’s constantly power-play or penalty-kill,” Gabinet said. “I’d prefer 5-on-5 play, but it’s not in our control all the time. I told our guys, we’ve got to understand what’s being called and take some responsibility for ourselves to stay out of the box.”

Just over two minutes after Ness made it 3-1, Omaha’s Matt Miller answered back with his ninth goal of the season. Miller’s tally came at the 4:14 mark of the second period. But Schmaltz potted his second of the night later in the period, once again giving UND a two-goal cushion. The Fighting Hawks carried that lead into the third.

Down 4-2 with less than 12 minutes left, the Mavericks continued to keep their foot on the pedal. UND’s Jackson Kunz was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for a check from behind, which started the Omaha comeback

Kevin Conley blasted a Taylor Ward one-time feed past UND goaltender Zach Driscoll 2:08 into the major power play. Conley’s goal came at the 8:49 mark and cut the deficit to 4-3.

“Great play by Wardo through the seam,” Conley said. “I knew it was kinda coming, he was looking me off a little bit, but (he) put it right in my wheelhouse.”

After numerous chances, including a crossbar and multiple saves by Driscoll, the Mavericks finally came through. With an extra attacker on the ice, Ward tied it with 56 seconds left to force overtime and secure a point.

However, UND defenseman Tyler Kleven scored 1:28 into the overtime to give UND its seventh consecutive win and third-straight Penrose Cup.

The Mavericks will close out the regular season Saturday night and try for a split against UND. Game two between Omaha (20-15, 10-13) and UND (22-11-1, 17-5-1) is set for a 7:07 p.m. faceoff.

“It’s pretty easy to get fired up to play against those guys,” Conley said. “I know we’ll be ready to go tomorrow and I think we’ve got that playoff mentality where every game matters right now.”

 Ward’s big equalizer

The Mavericks had several chances to tie it in the final minutes, but they remained down by one. Until there were just 56 seconds left.

“Just a great play by (Tyler Weiss),” Ward said of the goal. “I thought that we were pressing for the majority of the period and I think we could’ve scored a handful of goals to tie it up, but it took until the 19th minute. I was lucky enough to put it in, but it was big and it was fun to fight back. I think the guys showed a lot of heart, but it was too bad we didn’t pull it off in overtime.”

Ward’s goal was his 18th of the season, which leads the team and is tied for the 10th most in the country. It was also the 56th of Ward’s career, which is good for sixth in program history. Ward is two shy of Josh Archibald, who is currently fifth.

Ward is also now tied for 10th in program history with 113 career points. That’s one point behind Brandon Scero, who is currently ninth.

“That’s the guy you want with the puck on his stick around the net,” Gabinet said. “He knows how to put the puck in the net. Nice play by Weisser. We had our goalie out and had the extra attacker, but great goal by those guys to tie the game.”

Roden starts again

For the second straight game and the third time in the last five, Austin Roden got the start between the pipes for Omaha. Gabinet confirmed after the game Isaiah Saville is still not at 100% and was once again feeling “under the weather.”

Roden stopped 30 of the 35 shots he saw in the loss.

“I thought he’s been playing great,” Ward said of Roden. “It’s always nice to know whoever’s in net back there you have all the confidence in the world in them.”

PK shines

In a game that featured 13 combined power-play opportunities, the Mavericks were up to the test. Omaha withstood several UND chances on the man advantage, especially on the five-minute major.

“They’ve been good all season long,” Gabinet said. “We’ve got some real heart and soul guys on that penalty kill unit that show up and compete and make some big blocks. (I) thought we limited their chances down the stretch.”

Ward echoed that.

“Some games are like that,” he said. “They had a lot of power-play minutes in the first couple periods and our (penalty kill) hung in there and battled for us and kept us in it. Sometimes the games just go like that and you need certain players or units to step up and they did tonight.”

Home crowd makes a difference

Friday’s attendance was announced at 6,387, the biggest of the season at Baxter Arena.

“I thought we gave them something to cheer about in the third period and you could tell the energy on the bench was feeding off that crowd,” Gabinet said.

That crowd was especially noticeable in the final minutes of the third period.

“We came out in the third period ready to go and answered the bell,” Conley said. “I think we fed off the crowd a lot. They were great tonight and helped us get some momentum there.”

News and notes

  • Jonny Tychonick had two assists in the loss.
  • Victor Mancini and Jack Randl each had three blocked shots, which led Omaha.
  • UND finished 2-for-7 on the power play and Omaha was 1-for-6.
  • UND played without Jake Sanderson, Riese Gaber and Ethan Frisch, all due to injury.
  • The win was the first overtime win of the season for UND. It was the 10th time in 47 meetings between Omaha and UND that a game has required overtime.
  • The team that has scored first has now won 23 of the past 25 meetings.
  • UND becomes the first team in NCHC history to win three straight Penrose Cups. It’s UND’s fifth overall.
  • All UND needs is a point or a Denver loss on Saturday to clinch the Penrose outright and the NCHC’s top seed.

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