The No. 19/15 UNO Men’s Hockey team bounced back strong this past weekend in a very important conference series against No. 12/11 Western Michigan on Jan. 26 and 27 at Baxter Arena.
The first period was an intense start and UNO’s Teemu Pulkkinen was the first to score as the Mavericks took a 1-0 lead after 17 minutes of play. Both UNO and WMU were 0-2 on their first period power play opportunities, and the Mavs held onto their slim lead entering the second period.
Western Michigan refused to stay quiet as they managed two more power plays in the second period but would still come up empty handed. UNO had two power plays as well, scoring a goal during the second one off the stick of senior David Pope to make the score 2-0 at the end of the period.
The Broncos of Western Michigan managed to keep it close and put all 6,000-plus fans on the edge of their seats after Neal Goff scored a goal three minutes into the third and Austin Rueschhoff added another on a power play with 10:30 remaining in the game. After four minutes of nail-biting play, the Mavericks managed to get a power play opportunity in which senior Joel Messner found himself a goal to give UNO a 3-2 lead.
The Mavericks continued to hold off WMU’s offense and tacked on three late goals from the likes of Zach Jordan, Cole Pickup and Luke Nogard to boost UNO to a nice 6-3 win on Friday night.
The Broncos were first to strike on Saturday, Dawson DiPietro found the back of the net during an early WMU power play just four and a half minutes into the first period to take a 1-0 lead. UNO would quickly respond with a power play goal of their own, Pope scored for the second night in a row to make it 1-1.
UNO’s Fredrik Olofsson made the score 2-1 after a nice goal about nine minutes later and would hold onto that lead throughout the rest of the first period. After the break, UNO continued to be aggressive on offense and Pope scored his second goal of the night to give them a more relaxing 3-1 lead. Jalen Schulz scored for the Mavs just 21 seconds later and the Broncos found themselves down three goals early and on the road.
Cam Orchard’s goal gave the Broncos a little hope when he scored two minutes later and cut the lead to two with 11:19 remaining in the second period. Tyler Vesel scored another goal for the Mavs with 4:56 left on the clock and despite WMU’s four second-period power plays, UNO entered the third period with a 5-3 advantage.
Vesel added a second goal to his Saturday night stat sheet when he scored five minutes into the third period for a 6-2 Maverick lead. Ten minutes of play would go by before anyone would score, WMU’s Josh Passolt ended that drought with a power play goal to cut the lead to three with less than five minutes left in the game. Steven Spinner of UNO scored 24 seconds later and that would be the last goal of the night as the game ended 7-3 in favor of the Mavs.
UNO’s convincing series sweep gives them a 14-11-1 record on the season and 7-9 in their conference. The Mavericks will look to continue their win streak as they travel to St. Cloud, Minnesota next weekend on Feb. 2 and 3 to take on another NCHC opponent in the St. Cloud State Huskies.