On March 9, the NCHC Playoffs began for the UNO Mavericks as they traveled up to Grand Forks, North Dakota to face off with the UND Fighting Hawks yet again.
Game one of the three-game series started with North Dakota jumping out to an early, insurmountable lead. The Fighting Hawks took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Shane Gersich was able to put the puck past UNO’s goaltender Evan Weninger with 13:52 remaining in the first period. While UNO’s offense struggled, UND took the ice in stride and quickly capitalized.
The second period was huge for the Fighting Hawks, they were able to make it 2-0 just one minute into the period when UND’s Christian Wolanin scored a goal of his own. UNO tried to chip away at the two-point deficit but was unable to score. Eleven minutes later with 8:21 remaining in the second, Nick Jones added to North Dakota’s lead and made the score 3-0.
The Fighting Hawks weren’t finished, Joel Janatuinen scored the third goal of the period for UND and the Mavs were now down 4-0. UNO went 0-for-1 on their power plays during the period despite getting off four shots.
UNO tried climbing back into the game but couldn’t get anything going their way. Although the Mavs didn’t allow the Fighting Hawks to score in the third, they were unable to score a goal of their own and were shut out 4-0 in game one.
North Dakota’s success continued to translate into game two, where Matt Kiersted scored the first goal of the night for the Fighting Hawks and UND found themselves up 1-0 for the second night in a row just 10 minutes into the first period. North Dakota’s Dixon Bowen added another goal just four minutes later to make the score 2-0 with 5:55 remaining in the first.
Thankfully, UNO would not be shut out two nights in a row. Teemu Pulkkinen quickly answered for the Mavs and made the score 2-1 about a minute and a half later. Both teams went 0-for-1 on their first period power plays and the second period began with the same 2-1 score.
The Mavs continued to be aggressive on offense and Pulkkinen scored his second goal of the night, assisted by Tyler Vesel, and the game was all tied up at 2-2 with 14:35 remaining in the second. UNO shut out the Fighting Hawks throughout the second period and they would enter the third period in a 2-2 tie.
For the first time in both games, UNO jumped in the lead from a goal off the stick of Jake Randolph just 5:41 into the third period. The Mavs couldn’t hold onto the 3-2 lead for long, UND’s Nick Jones scored a goal for the Fighting Hawks with 9:46 remaining in the third to tie it back up. Both teams would scrap for a game-winning goal but came up empty handed, the must-win game for the Mavs would head into overtime.
UND gave it all they had and refused to lose at home. Jones scored another goal for the Fighting Hawks that lifted UND to a 4-3 lead and eventually, the win.
North Dakota won the best of three series against UNO and will advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff next weekend. UNO fell to 17-17-2 on the season and UND improved to 16-12-10. Despite UNO’s season efforts, they will likely miss out on the NCAA Playoffs, only the top 16 teams in the nation are invited and UNO slipped in the rankings following the series loss to North Dakota.