After going seven weeks without playing at Baxter Arena, the Mavericks returned home Friday night with a thud, falling to No. 7 Minnesota Duluth, 5-1.
In an arena that oozed of frustration and disappointment throughout much of the night, the Mavericks had their chances, but they came to no avail. Omaha outshot the Bulldogs 25-24, had a late first-period goal taken off the board and also had an unsuccessful challenge on UMD’s third goal of the night.
Omaha also had ample power-play chances, but the Mavericks finished 1-for-6 on the man advantage.
“Just wasn’t our night tonight,” said head coach Mike Gabinet after the game. “Everything they shot found a way into the net and everything we threw at them found a way to stay out. At times, some good play by us there, but not the result we’re looking for.”
With the loss, the Mavericks are now 14-9-0 on the season and 4-7-0 in conference play, quickly slipping in the NCHC standings. Even more alarming, the Mavericks have dropped six of their last eight, including their last two on home ice, and their recent struggles have started to damage their NCAA tournament chances.
There were some spurts Friday night where the Mavericks controlled the play and had sustained pressure in the UMD zone, especially on the power play. But similar to losses earlier this season, consistency was lacking. It boils down to putting together a complete effort.
“I thought our (effort) was pretty good in the third,” said junior winger Jack Randl. “We were getting after pucks and we were getting it behind them. We got some good chances off of that and we showed that we can be a good team — we’ve just got to make sure we can find that for a full 60.”
Randl scored the Mavericks’ lone goal of the night midway through the third period, redirecting a Brandon Scanlin shot past UMD netminder Ryan Fanti for a power-play goal. That made it a 3-1 game at the time, but that was as close as the home side got.
Dominic James gave UMD a 1-0 lead 4:20 into the contest, Quinn Olson extended the lead to 2-0 at the 12:31 mark of the opening period and the Bulldogs never trailed in this one. Olson’s goal came on the power play, as he took a cross-ice pass from James and sniped a shot into the top right corner.
The Bulldogs power-play unit entered this weekend at the bottom of the NCHC, but they cashed in on one of their three chances. Their penalty kill also was up to the task, killing off five of Omaha’s six chances, including four in the second period.
“Their power play is good,” said UMD forward Luke Loheit. “You have to give them credit. They shoot pucks really well, get pucks to the net. The biggest thing was staying in front of them, trying to get in lanes. Fanti was unreal. He saw the puck, deflected it into corners. The biggest thing was keeping them outside, not letting them get to the middle or get any big chances.”
On the Omaha side, those power-play struggles were accompanied by frustration.
“In games like that, especially when they score early, we’ve got to produce on the power play there,” Gabinet said.
Randl echoed that sentiment too. Despite the frustration though, they have to stick with it.
“We’ve been working real hard in practice on that,” Randl said. “Switched up the units a little bit this past week and we’ve been really good at practice, so I think we’ve just got to stick to what we’ve been working on. Just keep creating chances, keep doing the right things and keep outworking their PK. Hopefully, we’ll get some more (goals) coming up.”
However, the next two ‘goals’ after Olson’s, one of which was taken off the board, were the main story in this one.
The Mavericks had thought they’d made it a 2-1 game late in the first period as Brock Bremer flew off the Omaha bench, won a race to the puck inside the UMD zone and fired a shot past Fanti.
What initially was a short-handed goal that made it a one-goal game, Bremer’s fourth of the season was taken away. UMD challenged the goal for too many men as Bremer looked to leave the Omaha bench early, which replay confirmed.
A little over six minutes into the second period, another play was challenged for too many men, this time by the Omaha side. After a controversial change at the UMD bench, Loheit skated into the Omaha zone and squeaked a shot past Isaiah Saville for a short-handed goal. The Omaha staff argued the Bulldogs hadn’t completed their change before playing the puck, but the goal ended up standing after a lengthy review.
Loheit’s goal gave UMD a 3-0 lead with 13:50 left in the second period, a lead they carried into the final period.
“It’s hard for us because we don’t have access to the review cameras that they have,” Gabinet said of the challenge. “But again, to me, looked like their guy played the puck when their other guy was still on the ice. That’s the explanation we got of why our goal was disallowed, so obviously at that point of the game it’s worth it to take the risk and challenge it.”
After Randl’s goal at the 10:16 mark of the third, the Bulldogs put the nail in the coffin. Blake Biondi made it 4-1 with 2:34 left and Carter Loney tacked on another goal in the final minute, sealing the Bulldogs’ sixth conference win of the season. UMD is now 13-8-2 overall and 6-3-2 in NCHC play.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but our coaches and the guys just try to keep a good attitude and keep it positive,” Randl said. “Just focus on what we can control. We know there’s going to be adversity with the refs or goals getting called back, but we’ve just got to keep playing our right way and not let it get to us too much.
“We know we have a good group here. We’re still believing and I think that’s just what we’ve got to do — believe in each other and believe in the process. Just stick with it and we’re going to find a way to get out of this and we’ll find some good hockey here down the stretch.”
The Mavericks will look to get back on track and climb out of the funk they currently find themselves in, but it won’t be easy. It starts with bouncing back against the Bulldogs.
“Our last conference opponents have been Western (Michigan), Denver and now Duluth, and those are all top-10 teams in the country for a reason,” Gabinet said. “It’s not going to get any easier.
“The biggest thing you have to do in times like this is just cancel the noise out, don’t make excuses and take personal responsibility to get better. We have to do that individually, we have to do that collectively and you’ve got to show up and go to work.”
Game two between Omaha and Minnesota Duluth is set for a 7:07 p.m. CT faceoff.
News and notes
- Saville finished the night with 19 saves, but was clearly fighting the puck at times. Gabinet said after the game they’ll evaluate the film and make a decision tomorrow, but he did not rule out Austin Roden starting on Saturday.
- Fanti stopped 24 of the 25 shots fired his way.
- Joey Abate was out of the lineup for the first time this season. He was a healthy scratch along with forwards Martin Sundberg and Kaden Bohlsen, and defenseman Jason Smallidge.
- Saturday night the Mavericks will celebrate both parents weekend and alumni weekend. The Mavericks are celebrating their 25th anniversary season.
- With Friday’s win, UMD is now 12-8-0 all-time in Omaha. The Bulldogs are 11-0-1 in the last 12 against Omaha overall and 27-11-4 against the Mavericks all-time.
- Regarding the Bremer goal that was called back: You are able to challenge a goal for too many men. However, you can’t challenge or review the penalty itself leading up to a goal. That is why Omaha was not assessed an additional too many men minor on the play.