Proctor completes comeback and season sweep of Colorado College with 3-2 win


Jordan McAlpine

Kirby Proctor scored the game-winner Saturday night, giving Omaha the 3-2 victory and a season sweep of Colorado College. Photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics.

Saturday night surely didn’t start the way anybody on the Omaha bench wanted it to, especially after a 7-1 victory just one night before.

“I give a lot of credit to Colorado College,” said Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet. “I thought they looked really strong in the first period and they came out and played really well. You’ve got to give them some credit too, they responded extremely well.”

Colorado College carried the play for most of the opening period and the first half of the second. The CC forecheck and pressure was especially evident early, and Grant Cruikshank scored twice in the first two periods, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

Like they’ve done all season, the Mavericks responded. Omaha is now a perfect 5-0 in game two in the second half.

“This team finds ways to win hockey games,” Gabinet said. “We stayed calm on the bench and we knew what we had to do in the third period, and the guys executed it.”

The game-winner came with just 61 seconds left on the clock, as a Kirby Proctor shot from the point beat CC netminder Dominic Basse. After a Chayse Primeau faceoff win, Tyler Weiss knocked the loose puck back to Proctor at the point for the game-winner. Weiss was named the first star of the contest and had two assists.

”I saw a lane to the net through a couple legs and lucky enough it went in top corner,” Proctor said.

The goal was the third of the season for the sophomore defenseman, a career-best. After his team’s offensive outburst in game one, Saturday they saw a much different Tigers team. It could’ve been easy to fall into the cliche of a trap game, but Proctor and the group were able to respond.

“They definitely came back with a lot more pressure than they did last night and they were coming out to send a message,” he said. “We just had to stick with it. They had a really hot start and we just kept battling and persevering through it, and ultimately came out with a win.”

Cruikshank broke the ice 13:10 into the first period as the CC captain beat Isaiah Saville high for the 1-0 lead. The goal was Cruikshank’s team-leading seventh of the season, who returned Friday night for his first game since Jan. 2.

Cruikshank was not done for the night though, as the senior extended the Tigers lead to two 3:45 into the second. After intercepting an Omaha pass in the neutral zone, Cruikshank came down the left side and wristed one blocker-side and into the top corner.

From there on out, the Mavericks would score three unanswered.

A major power play is what really got the Omaha offense going in game one, and that was once again the story Saturday night. CC defenseman Zach Berzolla was given a 5-minute major and game misconduct for a hit on Taylor Ward, giving Omaha some momentum.

With 56 seconds left in the man advantage, Matt Miller tipped a Jonny Tychonick shot from the point home for his seventh of the season.

”We had a lot of pressure on the power play and we were getting a lot of shots through,” Miller said. “Fortunate enough to get a lucky bounce there and it’s the result of hard work and good puck retrievals from both units.”

Heading into the break down by one, the Mavericks were able to build off that momentum.

“I really liked our third period,” Gabinet said. “I thought we came out and played Omaha hockey in the third period and got ourselves back in the game. Obviously points are crucial right now and to come away with three points was a big win.”

The Mavericks initially thought they had tied it with 11:14 left, as Nolan Sullivan put a loose puck in the net. However, the officials lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead. It was the first of two Omaha goals that were waved off in the period.

With 7:29 left, the Mavericks were finally rewarded for their third-period effort as Ward put a loose puck under Basse to tie it, 2-2. The goal was Ward’s team-leading tenth of the season.

Just nine seconds later, a Brandon Scanlin dump-in ricocheted off the boards and into the slot. Nolan Sullivan put an initial attempt over the net, but after the puck bounced back in front, Jack Randl put it home. The initial signal on the ice was a good goal, but Basse had lost his mask on the play before the puck crossed the line.

After some confusion and a review, the goal was overturned.

“Even though they don’t count on the scoreboard, they definitely create some momentum for our team,” Miller said. “We can keep following them up with more shots and pressure.”

Finally, with 1:01 left, Proctor’s shot snuck through and beat Basse, who was sharp despite the loss. With the win, the Mavericks finish this season a perfect 6-0 against Colorado College. Omaha is now 13-6-1.

The Mavericks now have 38 points in the NCHC standings and with Denver’s 5-2 loss at North Dakota, Omaha has clinched a top-four finish in the NCHC standings. Although home ice might not be in play this season, Omaha will still have last change during at least the opening round of the NCHC playoffs.

In the big picture, it’s a big accomplishment for a group that was picked to finish sixth before the start of the season.

“To earn home ice In this league is a great accomplishment,” Gabinet said. “As you see this weekend, anybody can beat anybody, such great teams, and everybody is so well-coached.”

That top-four finish has been a goal for this group all season long.

”Our group has made tremendous strides even from last year to this year,” Proctor said. “Just the unity of the team and how we manage to work together, it’s been a blessing of a year.”

The Mavericks still have four games left before the playoffs begin, all against North Dakota. Omaha will travel to Grand Forks next Friday and Saturday.

News and notes

  • Isaiah Saville picked up his 11th win of the season tonight, which is a career-high. Saville had 26 saves.
  • Tyler Weiss now has a five-game point steak. He has 1-7-8 in that stretch.
  • Omaha finished this weekend a perfect 8-for-8 on the penalty kill.
  • The Mavericks will play North Dakota four times over the next three weekends. It’s a challenge they’re ready for. “We set our standard and we don’t play up or down to any team,” Proctor said. “We bring our level of compete to every game and that’s what we’re going to do with them.”
  • This season is the first time Omaha has finished in the top-four of the NCHC since 2014-15. That team was swept in the opening round by St. Cloud State, but advanced to the Frozen Four in Boston.
  • Omaha equaled their win total from the 2019-20 season tonight with 13. That was over 34 games last season.