Thanks to a Demi Lovato concert scheduled for Sunday night at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska-Omaha and Denver got their best-of-three playoff series started a night early. And thanks to a 4-3 win on Thursday evening, the Mavericks now stand just one game away from punching their ticket to the Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis next weekend.
It was a tight back-and-forth game throughout, with neither team able to build a lead of more than a single goal. Denver's Joey LaLeggia tied the game at three early in the third period after a series of extended pressure by Denver in the UNO zone. But Nebraska-Omaha's Brock Montpetit scored what would stand up as the game-winner at 10:57 of the third period with a beautiful individual effort to stickhandle around a Denver defender then deke past Denver goalie Sam Brittain for the goal. Montpetit finished the evening with two power play goals and an assist.
Nebraska-Omaha takes a 1-0 lead in the series and has a chance to end the Pioneers' season tomorrow evening. Thursday's game set a tone for a very physical series with each team being whistled for 10 penalties for a combined 51 minutes of penalty time. As usual, special teams ended up making the difference in the final score, with Nebraska-Omaha going 2-for-4 on the power play, while Denver was shut out in three attempts with the man advantage. The two teams will meet again tomorrow evening at 7:37CST for the second game of their series.