Last weekend, the Omaha Mavericks welcomed probably their toughest opponent yet this season—University of Massachusetts at Lowell. The team is ranked fifth in the nation and the Mavs needed a win coming back from a tie and a loss just a week prior to Vermont. On Friday the Mavs had their first home win of the season, taking it to the River Hawks 5-1.
Sophomore Evan Weninger, a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native, got the start in net for the Mavericks in the Friday opener. With 12:47 left in the first period, Austin “California Hot Sauce” Ortega scored the first goal of the game to give the Mavericks an early 1-0 advan-tage. Sophomore David Pope and junior alternate captain Luc Snuggerud assisted.
“When I was pulling it across, I was looking for Vesel there, but there was too much clutter going on so I just kept pulling it and saw an opening and I took advantage of it,” Ortega said.
Less than a minute later, captain Justin Parizek snuck another goal past UMass Lowell goalie Sean Cleary. Parizek was assisted by freshman Mason Morelli and senior Ian Brady, who got the first line defensive start.
UMass Lowell cut the deficit in half late in the first period with a goal by Jake Kamrass with 6:48 left in the period.
The Mavericks began the second period with the majority of a power play left. Using it to their advantage, the Mavs scored just one minute into the second to take a two-goal lead once again. Pope, with his second assist of the night,found alternate Vesel in the crease off an Ortega pass for the Edmonton Oiler draft pick to find net.
“When we hit the third goal it felt pretty good, I thought ‘oh know, if this game gets tied up again it’s replay, it’s like groundhog day, here we go again,” Blais said.
The Mavericks squandered a two-goal lead in last weekend’s opener against Vermont.
The end of the second period began to get a little bit chippy Friday night, from shoves after the whistle to physical hits along the boards, the Riverhawks let the Mavs know they weren’t going to let an unranked team beat them easily. From the looks of it, that’s just what happened and then some.
With the third period on the way, and Omaha leading 3-to-1, the Mavs had yet another chance to start the period off on a power play but failed to convert. A Maverick goal in the final period careened off the cross-bar, and was called-off by the nearby referee. The goal would go to an official’s review where it was deemed a “no goal,” met by a chorus of boos from the Maverick faithful.
About 10 minutes into the third the Mavs received an insurance goal—Steven Spinner’s first of the season. The score was assisted by Morelli again, and sophomore forward Fredrik Oloffson.
Vesel scored the game’s final goal with just over a minute left on a shorthanded, unassisted break-away for his second tally of the game. The Mavericks were still firing away at the net as the final horn echoed through Baxter. Fans went wild celebrating the 5-1 home win.
Despite the score, the nation’s fifth-ranked team did what most teams have a hard time doing against the Mavs on the ice—keep up with their playing pace.
“They’re probably the quickest forechecking team I’ve seen here in my seven going on eight years,” Blais said.
Although they kept up with Maverick pace, the River Hawk’s sloppiness on penalty killing showed. UMass Lowell failed to convert on penalty opportunities on five tries.
“I think that obviously special teams won us that game,” Weninger said. “They didn’t score a single power play goal and we scored two or three, and a short-handed goal, I think that’s something that’s definitely working in our favor.”