One night after the Mavericks knocked off North Dakota for the second time this season, the Fighting Hawks came back with a strong showing of their own, handing Omaha a 5-0 senior night loss to wrap up the regular season.
After a back-and-forth scoreless first period in game one, Saturday night saw a much different start. UND’s Westin Michaud found the back of the net just 63 seconds in. Michaud’s goal put the Fighting Hawks up early, and they never looked back–his goal would go on to be the eventual game-winner.
North Dakota struck again late in the period, this time with just 47 seconds showing on the clock over center ice. Cole Smith picked up a loose puck behind the net and threw it toward the net where it hit Colton Poolman’s skate and deflected past Omaha netminder Austin Roden.
Poolman’s goal was his fourth of the season and only his team’s third shorthanded goal of the season, sending his team back to the room ahead 2-0 after one physical period of play. It was also just the sixth shorthanded goal the Mavericks have allowed this season.
That physicality was a theme for the rest of the night, as it was for the weekend as a whole between these two rivals. The Mavericks were assessed nine total penalties Saturday.
Although they finished the night six for eight on the penalty kill, senior defenseman Ryan Jones knows they have to be smarter in order to stay in these games, he says. Jones was one of eight different Mavericks to head to the box.
“We have to know when to be smart physically and when not to be,” Jones said. “I think toward the end of the game we kind of got away from that – taking, in my opinion, penalties that we didn’t need to be taking.”
His head coach agreed that they can’t be spending so much time in the box, but he also didn’t complain about his guys sticking up for one another.
“I didn’t like a couple of the penalties we took at the end of the game, but I also have some empathy for our players,” said Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet. “We played these guys three times, and we got three concussions. At the end of the day, these guys are a very, very tight-knit group, they care about each other and it’s hard when you see teammates constantly go down with injuries.”
In the four games this year, Omaha has had four different players leave the games injured: Joey Abate, Jason Smallidge and Alex Roy all during the series in Grand Forks earlier this year, and Isaiah Saville left Friday night’s contest with a concussion.
Following the goal in the closing minute of the first period, UND picked up right where they left off, stretching the lead to three just 2:48 into the second. Jacob Bernard-Docker scored his first of two goals on the night, as his shot from the point trickled through Roden and made its way across the goal line, putting his team up 3-0.
Omaha got through the rest of the period unscaved and had some chances to start the third, but to no avail. With 6:37 left in regulation, Cole Smith tipped a Grant Mismash shot past Roden, putting the nail in the coffin.
Smith’s power play marker was his 11th of the season, bringing the large contingent of fans in green to their feet and sending many fans to the exits at Baxter Arena.
Bernard-Docker tacked on one more just over three minutes later with another shot from the point, his team’s second power play goal of the evening. The Ottawa Senators 2018 first round pick finished the game with two goals and an assist. He now ranks fourth in scoring by defensemen in the conference with 25 points.
Winning by a 5-0 final, North Dakota came out firing from the start and played a solid game at both ends of the ice. The Fighting Hawks outshot Omaha 28-17, out attempted them 59-31 and another big factor was the play in net. Peter Thome got the start, this after not playing in game one, and finished a perfect 17 for 17. Thome picked up his second shutout of the season, but he was just one of several adjustments UND made from the night before.
“You’ve got to give them credit too,” Dean Stewart said. “They came back and played a good game, but I think for us it’s more about worrying about ourselves. We didn’t do as good of a job tonight.”
Saturday night marked only the third time the Mavericks were shutout this season. However, all three times have come within the last four games. The final result may not show it, but there were some positive signs for a good chunk of this one.
“We played three excellent periods last night. We probably played about 40 minutes of pretty good hockey tonight,” Gabinet said.“The positive of it is we can draw on how we need to play. That’s a top team in the country, but when you play a certain way we have a chance at being successful. I want our guys to bottle the positivity that they know when we all play a certain way, good things are going to happen.”
As frustrating of a loss as this may have been, Saturday night was both a special and an emotional night, as five Mavericks skated in their final game at Baxter Arena,
In a very neat tribute on senior night, coach Gabinet started an all senior lineup of Tristan Keck, Teemu Pulkkinen and Zach Jordan, with Stewart and Jones on defense. After the game, Stewart said the players weren’t aware that was planned, but Gabinet says it was his idea.
“I think there are some things bigger than just having that perfect start with your matchup,” Gabinet said. “These are five guys that have given a lot to the program. You have guys that take it upon themselves to show what it takes to belong to this program, and that’s what those five guys do. They’re very special to me, they’re very special to our program and they deserve to all start on their last game in our building.”
The Mavericks finish the season (14-17-5, 8-13-3) with 27 points, which locks them in as the sixth seed in the NCHC standings. That’ll send them to Denver to take on the No. 3 seed Pioneers in a best-of-three series. The Mavericks haven’t won in 18 consecutive contests against DU, dating back to January 10, 2015, but what better time than now to change that.
The so-called second season gets underway Friday night at Magness Arena, followed up by game two on Saturday. Game three will take place on Sunday if necessary.
Make sure to follow @jordan_mcalpine on twitter for live game updates and check out https://www.unothegateway.com/category/sports/ice-hockey/ for postgame recaps and Maverick Hockey coverage all season long.