Minnesota State and Nebraska-Omaha split their only meeting of the regular season, and the same has happened in the playoffs. Nebraska-Omaha bounced back from a Friday night overtime loss to beat Minnesota State 2-1 on Saturday night, and force a decisive game three on Sunday evening.
Here's a few thoughts and notes from the game:
-It was really hard to believe this was a playoff game in Mankato, given the complete lack of atmosphere. The announced crowd was 3346, actually an improvement over Friday's 2855, but the crowd was pretty dead most of the night. There was certainly no home ice advantage for the purple Mavericks. One would think that given Minnesota State's lack of success over the past number of years, there would be more interest and excitement given how well their team has played.
-Overall, there wasn't a whole lot of action on the ice either. Not many goals, and not many penalties either way. Minnesota State opened up the scoring with a nice goal by Matt Leitner, and had an opportunity to put Omaha away early, but UNO responded back with a few nice shifts that eventually resulted in Tanner Lane poking a puck in traffic that deflected off an MSU defenseman and into the net. Perhaps a lucky bounce, but a lucky bounce that UNO created through solid effort. That goal may have been the turning point, because if UNO went down 2-0, they may have been looking for the exits. Coming out of that period tied at 1 may have kept them competing.
-John Faulkner has taken a lot of criticism for his part in UNO's late-season slide, but he was very good tonight. He finished with 34 saves, including a couple really nice ones. It was a bit of a question of whether or not he'd even start tonight after a rough loss last night, but Dean Blais stuck with him and was rewarded.
-If tomorrow doesn't go Minnesota State's way, no moment may stand out as bigger than Teddy Blueger taking a nice feed and putting a shot off the cross bar with a mostly open net early in the third period. The play was reviewed, but the puck clearly hit the post. That goal would have put Minnesota State up 2-1. instead, Dominic Zombo put UNO ahead shortly after and the red Mavericks were able to make that lead stand.
-Dominic Zombo had the game-winning goal, on a nice play to get the goalie moving to his right, and then sliding the puck back the other way. Zombo was also very good in the face-off circle. His final total was 14 wins against 7 losses, but what doesn't show is that about two or three of those wins came in his own zone in the final minute. That single-handedly ate up a lot of time as MSU tried to get the game-tying goal.
-Really a nice game for UNO's Josh Archibald tonight, who was all over the ice. He had a quiet night on the scoresheet, but caused problems for Minnesota State all night with his speed, and threw a couple nice hits. Minnesota State's Matt Leitner had a strong game for the purple Mavericks.
-Should be a great game tomorrow. Nebraska-Omaha has a very talented team, and this win may have given them the shot of life that they needed. Minnesota State, meanwhile, should be pretty desperate as well. A trip to the final Final Five, and perhaps a trip to the NCAA tournament could be on the line for them.