UNO Hockey falls short to UND

Photo Courtesy of UNO Athletics
Photo Courtesy of UNO Athletics

Andrew Nelson

Omaha fans were ready to give the newly named “Fighting Hawks,” of North Dakota a warm
welcome into Baxter Arena last Friday night, but the welcoming didn’t go quite as the Mavericks had hoped. Omaha dropped both games, 4-2 Friday, and 4-1 on Saturday to league-leading North Dakota, and both games were chippy throughout.

Jake Guentzal got the scoring started Friday night setting up some silky smooth passing to Fredrik Olofsson who snaked it over to Justin Parizek, then back to Guentzal who sniped it past UND’s Cam Johnson. With about a minute left in the period, Guentzal was cross-checked from behind by UND’s Christian Wolanin which left him scrambling up and a gang of black jerseys going after the Fighting Hawk.

Guentzal ended up doing two in the sinbin for unsportsmanlike while Wolanin went into the box for cross-checking. Omaha took a 1-0 lead into the second period, but that was short lived.

Just over a minute-and-a-half into the second, Tucker Poolman fired a shot just below the crossbar that got by Omaha’s Alex Blankenburg, the goalie who got the start the last Friday night game Omaha beat North Dakota on the road.

UND’s Luke Johnson took a pass from Poolman and found the net on a powerplay goal that gave UND its first lead. Johnson was ejected from the game later in the period for a hit on an Omaha defensemen. Omaha received a five minute major penalty that began with 5:10 left in the period. Omaha would go scoreless on the entire powerplay and allowed UND back to full strength to start the third.

Drake Caggiula scored on a deflected shot, but Fredrik Olofson fired a one-timer that was set up by Guentzal past Johnson to get the Mavs within one. UND’s Brock Boeser scored an empty-netter with 53 seconds to seal it for the Fighting Hawks and the Omaha fans began pouring out of Baxter Arena by the hundreds.

Photo Courtesy of UNO Athletics
Photo Courtesy of UNO Athletics

Blankenburg and Johnson each made 20 saves on the night, and Johnson would get the nod again for the Fighting Hawks while it was Evan Weninger in net Saturday for the Mavs.

North Dakota would get things started on Senior Night at Baxter Arena Saturday with a Keaton Thompson goal that snuck by Weninger who was screened out. The Mavs weren’t out of the woods yet as the Fighting Hawks extended the lead to 3-0 in the second period. UND Drake Caggiula scored again in his second night in Baxter Arena off his own rebound, and Bryn Chyzyk fired one past Weninger during the period as well.

Omaha would get on the board late in the second on a Luc Snuggerud slapshot that bounced off a North Dakota defensemen’s stick and past Johnson, who had 26 saves in net for the Fighting Hawks. NCHC goals leader Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 22nd goal of the season with just over five minutes left in the game. Weninger, a freshmen, was being fired at all night and still managed to stop 33 shots, while Johnson stopped 26 for UND. The win clinched North Dakota a share of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference championship.

With the loss Omaha likely played their final home game of the season at Baxter Arena. The Mavs have now lost four straight at home and will head to Denver this weekend to finish the regular season. Omaha (18-13-1, 8-13-1) was swept by the Pioneers in early January at home.