Penalties, posts and missed scoring chances—that was the story of how the Mavericks fell short Friday night, losing to the Wisconsin Badgers by a 5-2 final.
One of the biggest stories of the night was the ongoing parade to the penalty box, as the Mavericks finished with 18 minutes of penalty time, and Wisconsin racked up 31 of their own, plus an ejection to center Dylan Holloway in the second period.
However, the penalties shown on the clock over center ice didn’t amount to much on the ice. The Badgers were 0-6 on the man advantage, while Omaha, who came in with the seventh best power play in the nation (30.3%) was only able to convert on one of their seven chances.
After a fast-paced, physical start by both sides, the Badgers opened up the scoring 17 minutes and 24 seconds into the first period, as junior Ty Pelton-Byce buried a cross ice feed from Tarek Baker past Isaiah Saville to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead. Omaha would have several opportunities of their own in the first period, but couldn’t find a way to put anything in the net in the first, something that would become a theme throughout the night.
“You get those types of chances, usually a couple of those are going in,” said UNO head coach Mike Gabinet. “Even 5-on-5 tonight, we had 3-4 posts, and a couple open nets that we just couldn’t find the back of the net. When you get those chances, usually good things are happening, and now we just need to find a way to capitalize on those chances.”
The Mavericks would go into the locker room only trailing by one but would come out firing on all cylinders to start the second, knotting the game up 3:09 into the frame. Just 24 seconds into their third power play of the night, sophomore defenseman Brandon Scanlin fired a shot from the point past Wisconsin goalie Daniel Lebedeff, evening the game up at 1-1.
With 8:51 left in the period, Wisconsin center Dylan Holloway caught Omaha goalie Isaiah Saville up high with a knee. After review, Holloway would receive his third penalty of the game, this one five minutes for contact to the head, and he was also issued an ejection.
Freshman Alex Turcotte took a pass from captain Wyatt Kalynuk and went in on Saville, who made the initial save, but was unable to corral the rebound and Turcotte knocked home his fourth of the season, giving Wisconsin a 2-1 lead with 6:45 left in the second.
Less than four minutes after Turcotte’s tally, the badgers would extend their lead to two, as with 2: 53 left in the period, Roman Ahcan tipped home a shot from Josh Ess, giving Wisconsin a 3-1 lead.
Omaha would once again come out strong to start the third, but Lebedeff continued to stand tall for the Badgers, as the sophomore had a solid game between the pipes. The Mavericks would continue to push and had several golden chances, actually forcing Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato to burn his timeout with 9:23 left.
Omaha would get a goal out of an unlikely source of offense, that being the Mavericks fourth line, as with 3:55 to go, freshman Nolan Sullivan fired one past Lebedeff for his first career collegiate goal, cutting the deficit to one.
“I was lucky enough to get the bounce, but my linemates Boyer and Prokop could’ve had the same thing and the same situation, so credit goes to them,” Sullivan said.
With the Baxter Arena crowd on its feet and Omaha pushing to tie, the Badgers didn’t back down, as with 2:12 seconds left Cole Caufield rang a shot off the post and less than one minute later Roman Ahcan fired the puck into the empty net, stretching the lead back to two and sending most of the fans for the exits. Junior Sean Dhoogie would add another late empty net tally with 1:05 left, and Wisconsin would go onto win by a 5-2 final.
Even in the loss, there are several positive takeaways for the Mavericks and this is not unfamiliar territory for the young team. Just three weeks back, Omaha rebounded to take game two and split with Ohio State.
With the loss, Omaha falls to (4-2-1, 0-0) on the season, while Wisconsin climbs back above 0.500 at (5-4, 0-2) on the young season. The Mavericks will again be in action on Nov. 15, as they hit the road to play Western Michigan.