By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
Three weeks after the Mavs conquered the Bemidji St. jinx, UNO allowed once-winless Alabama-Huntsville their first victory of the year and split a non-conference series against the Chargers in Nashville. Huntsville who came into the game 0-14-1 thus far in the season, hadn’t won a game since last year’s 2-1 overtime victory in Omaha.
But, playing down to the competition has become a disturbing trend for Maverick hockey over the last year.
Bemidji St. who had 15 wins a season ago, got five of those wins against UNO. After getting swept in Bemidji, then going 0-1-1 in Omaha, the Mavs dropped a first-round WCHA playoff matchup to the Beavers 4-2 and 3-2.
Alabama-Huntsville faced the Mavs with a 3-24-1 record the last weekend of January. UNO got a 4-0 shutout Friday night but dropped a 2-1 overtime game the night after. The Chargers had just four wins all of last season.
The 2-1 overtime loss last year mirrored the 3-1 defeat UNO suffered on Friday night. A season ago the Mavs put 59 shots on goal, had eight power plays and could only get the one score.
Last weekend in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena, UNO got 45 shots on net, four power plays and again just one goal.
In four career games against the Mavs, Huntsville goaltender Clarke Saunders has a career mark of 1-2-1 with a 3.00 goals against average and .941 save percentage. UNO averages 47.5 shots against the Chargers, but Saunders has often been the difference.
Friday, the two teams traded goals in the second period and went into intermission tied 1-1. Less than two minutes after Huntsville’s Brice Geoffrion gave the Chargers the lead, a nifty pass from Ryan Walters to defenseman Mike Young was put over the shoulder of Saunders to get UNO on the board.
Huntsville scored 8:03 into the third period then added an empty-netter with three seconds left for the 3-1 victory.
Speaking to the Omaha World Herald after the game, Mav head coach Dean Blais felt it was more about what his team wasn’t doing that it was Saunders being strong in goal.
“It wasn’t that their goaltender was standing on his head,” Blais said. “He made some saves, but … it was sloppy play all over the ice. We’ve got to move the puck and execute. There was one guy on every line who was the reason for us not executing.”
Saturday, UNO got some measure of revenge, winning 6-2. Brent Gwidt scored 42 seconds in and the Mavs built a 4-0 lead midway through the second. Matt White followed up Gwidt’s score with another at 2:19 of the first, Brock Montpetit made it 3-0 early in the second period and White scored a power play goal at the 10:20 mark of the second period.
Huntsville made it 4-2 with 1:19 to go in the second, but UNO scored twice in the final 20 minutes. Alex Hudson added a power play goal, his fourth of the year, and Ryan Walters scored unassisted with 3:54 remaining.
“No one was happy with the way we played (Friday), and it wasn’t just one guy,” Blais said in comments to the Omaha World Herald. “We weren’t playing our type of game. (Saturday) they did what they should have done and played normal.”
Freshman Dayn Belfour took the loss Friday night, stopping 14 of 16 shots and dropping his record to 3-3-0. Fellow freshman Ryan Massa was in goal Saturday, compiling 24 saves on 26 shots to improve to 3-2-1 on the season.