GRAND FORKS, N.D.- For the 18th straight game between Omaha and North Dakota, the team that scored first was the team that walked away victorious. Riese Gaber gave UND a 1-0 lead 3:31 into the contest and Fighting Hawks scored three second-period goals in a 4-1 win Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Gaber’s goal was his 12th of the season and the first of three points on the night. The sophomore flew out of the UND zone, skated around the Omaha defense, then cut into the slot and ripped a shot home. Gaber’s speed was evident throughout the night, and it helped create UND’s second and third goals. But there was a little bit of fortunate timing involved too.
Both were scored seconds after Mark Senden stepped out of the penalty box and joined the rush heading into the Omaha zone.
“That’s the game of hockey sometimes,” Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet said after the game. “There are bounces and a little bit of luck that comes into play, so all you can control is how you respond to something like that.
“Really played well, and unfortunately, probably three mistakes cost us. We’re doing a lot of good things, but they’re a talented team that will make you pay, and they capitalized. We just have to stick with it.”
Senden, who ended up scoring the game-winner, corralled a rebound from Gaber’s initial shot and buried his fifth of the season at the 9:53 mark of the second period. Just under four minutes later, Senden set up Judd Caulfield for a backdoor tap-in to make it 3-1. Ethan Frisch stretched the lead to 4-1 on a power-play blast with seven seconds left in the period.
The Fighting Hawks scored all three goals in a 10-minute span and outshot Omaha 11-7 in the second.
“They were opportunistic,” said Omaha defenseman Brandon Scanlin. “We had our chances, they had their chances, but they executed and we didn’t. Couple bounces could’ve gone either way, but either way we’ve just got to keep working.
“We’ve been doing the right thing a lot of weekends in a row, but we just can’t seem to buy one on Fridays. We hemmed them in their own zone for a lot of time and in the second they had three goals, but they only had one sustained o-zone shift against us. I think we’re doing a lot of good things but just have to figure out how to put it all together.”
After falling behind early, Scanlin tied the game with 2:28 left in the opening period. The junior defenseman snuck a shot past Zach Driscoll for his third goal of the season and a power-play marker. Driscoll, who was the No. 1 star, stopped 26 of the 27 shots he saw on the night and has stopped 46 of the last 47 shots he’s seen going back to UND’s tie against St. Cloud State last Saturday.
The Mavericks outshot UND 27-20 Friday night, including an 11-5 mark in the first and 9-4 in the third. Scanlin hit a post, Taylor Ward rang a shot off the crossbar in the third period and there were three goalmouth scrums where the Mavericks weren’t able to put the puck over the line. One of them went to review minutes before Senden gave UND the lead, but replay confirmed UND defenseman Cooper Moore kept it out.
“It’s very frustrating,” Scanlin said of failing to convert on those opportunities. “Seems like we just can’t buy many (goals) on Friday nights, but the only people that can change that are ourselves. We’ve just got to keep sticking to our game. Our coaches do a great job preparing us and we’ve just got to execute. We’ve been doing a lot of things well but it’s frustrating not to get rewarded on another Friday night.”
With the loss, Omaha falls to (16-11-0, 6-9-0) on the season and UND improves to (15-10-1, 10-4-1). The two teams will finish the series Saturday at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Game two is set for a 6:07 p.m. CT faceoff.
“Besides maybe three plays, I really liked our game tonight,” Gabinet said. “The effort was there, the chances were there and when you’re playing against good teams, you have to have the will to keep pounding away. You never know when the rock is going to break, but you’ve got to keep pounding on it.”
New week, same story
It’s been a similar story for this Omaha team as of late: generate chances and outshoot the opponent, but fail to capitalize and fall short in game one.
“I just think we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually it’ll come,” Scanlin said. “We’d rather have it happen now than later in the year when we need to win on a Friday night and it means more.”
Omaha has lost six straight series openers and the Mavericks are 3-6 since returning from the Christmas break. The Mavericks are now 5-9-0 in game one this season, but they head into Saturday with an 11-2-0 record in game two.
“You’ve just got to play and focus on yourself and don’t get caught up in it,” Gabinet said of the recent Friday struggles. “You can’t change how you play or prepare whether it’s a Friday or a Saturday.”
Mueller to miss game two
Freshman center Ty Mueller was injured on a play in the first period where he was leveled by Tyler Kleven inside the UND zone. Mueller finished his shift and made it back to the bench under his own power but did not return the rest of the night.
Gabinet said after the game that Mueller will for sure be out for Saturday’s game and will be evaluated when the team gets back to Omaha. It’s believed to be an upper-body injury.
Roden in relief
After giving up four goals on 16 shots, Omaha goaltender Isaiah Saville was pulled after the second period. Austin Roden saw his first action since Dec. 4 and stopped all four shots he saw in the third period.
“Rodes hasn’t been in there in a while,” Gabinet said. “Nice to get him some minutes and reps there.”
News and notes
- The team that has scored first has won 18 straight and 22 of the past 23 games between Omaha and North Dakota.
- Brandon Scanlin now has 23 points, which ranks second on the team. Scanlin has 20 assists this season.
- With an assist on Scanlin’s goal, Taylor Ward now has 11 points (5-6-11) in 13 career games against UND.
- Omaha finished the night 1-for-5 on the power play. UND was 1-for-3.
- UND defenseman Ethan Frisch now has goals in three straight games.
- Luke Bast notched his first career point with an assist on Senden’s goal.
- UND leads the all-time series 29-15-1 and is 15-8-1 at home against Omaha.
- Omaha associate athletic director Mike Kemp made the trip to Grand Forks this weekend and was sitting in the press box Friday night.
- Davis Pennington was a healthy scratch Friday night along with Kaden Bohlsen. Pennington will likely be back in the lineup Saturday with Mueller out.