Omaha came into tonight's game with the duo of Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel having scored 21 of the team's 47 goals on the season, for 44% of the team's total scoring. A cookie at lunchtime and a tweaked knee in the first period meant that the Mavericks would have to skate nearly 45 minutes of tonight's game without either player available. But it didn't matter as Omaha's supporting players came through in spades in a 7-2 victory to earn a series split against the Huskies.
Even with Ortega sideline due to an allergic reaction, the game started with a familiar script for the Mavericks. Jake Guentzel picked up a rebound in front of the net on a shot that caromed off the back boards and put the Mavericks ahead 1-0 5:18 into the first period.
The Huskies appeared to tie the game at 7:30 of the first period when Will Borgen's one-timed slap shot beat Omaha goalie Evan Weninger to the five hole. But the play was immediately waved off by the official. Video review upheld the call that St. Cloud State's Patrick Russell was in the crease, which interfered with Weninger.
Guentzel left the game late in the first period after tweaking his knee on a harmless-looking collision. He returned to the bench for the second period, but did not skate. Despite the loss, Omaha's top power play unit scored on their first opportunity post-Guentzel when David Pope's low wrist shot beat St. Cloud State goalie Lindgren to give the Mavericks a 2-0 lead. Brian Cooper's low wrist shot would extend the lead to 3-0 at 10:30
The Huskies showed a brief sign of life when Jimmy Schuldt answered Cooper's goal 48 seconds later to cut the lead to 3-1, but Ryan Galt's first career goal at 14:13 of the period brought the lead back to three. Galt's goal ended the night for Lindgren, and for all intents and purposes, ended the game.
The Mavericks would add three more goals against back-up goalie Rasmus Reijola, while the Huskies only added a single goal in the third period for a final score of 7-2.
The series split drops St. Cloud State to 6-2-0-0 in NCHC play, now three points behind North Dakota, who finished off a sweep of Denver tonight, for first place in the NCHC. The Mavericks move to 4-3-1-0 in NCHC play.
St. Cloud State travels to Denver next weekend, while Omaha will play a home series against Arizona State in two weeks.
Notes and Thoughts:
-I live by the idea that you always show up to the rink because you never know what you're going to see. That was the case tonight, as the nation's leading goal scorer was a late scratch due a walnut sneaking into a lunchtime oatmeal raisin cookie at the team hotel. Ortega took medication all afternoon to reduce the swelling and play, but looked extremely sluggish in warm-ups. One out of every four goals scored by Omaha coming into this game had been scored by Ortega. Add in that Jake Guentzel left the game due to injury late in the first period, and I wouldn't have given Omaha much chance in this game.
But everybody else on the Omaha bench rose to the moment tonight. Seven goals from seven different goal scorers. Freshmen Ryan Galt and Mason Morelli scored their first career goals. Luke Nogard had a single point in 35 career games played, and picked up two assists tonight. Avery Peterson was going to be scratched after going scoreless in his first 13 games this season, but got into the line-up thanks to Ortega's cookie and picked up a point. The Mavericks needed an offensive performance like this from their bottom lines.
-After looking fantastic last night, this was just a flat effort from St. Cloud State. This wasn't the typical Omaha win where they get a lead then sit on it with frustrating defensive play--though there was certainly a bit of that for much of the second period. But for the most part, Omaha just dominated this game, and the Huskies never really seemed to have an answer.
-Will Borgen's first period goal being waved off was a big turning point. The difference between being tied and trailing a team like Omaha is a big one, and the Huskies never really seemed to recover. I disagree with the call because I disagree with every Derek Shepherd call as a matter of principle, but otherwise, I can see why. Patrick Russell was very close to the crease and very close to blocking the view of Weninger. It was the type of call where the call on the ice was likely to stand regardless of which way it was called.
-Two goals allowed on 33 shots and another win for Evan Weninger. Again, I can see the question being asked why Weninger did not start on Friday, but I get it. Take away the names and numbers and ask me who played better this weekend and I might pick Thompson. Weninger was bailed out of a soft goal on the disallowed goal and caught a lucky break from the goal post. Otherwise, he made maybe one or two Grade-A saves compared to three or four from Thompson last night, and Weninger's glove hand looks like a bit of a liability. In all, I can understand the argument for sheltering Weninger's minutes a bit and keeping Thompson active in the rotation.
-Omaha had the worst power play in the league coming into the night, but went 3-for-5, and Guentzel's first period goal came off the momentum of one of those empty power plays.
Shots on Goal: SCSU: 6-12-15-33 UNO: 13-11-11-35
Even strength shot attempts: SCSU: 10-14-20-44 UNO: 10-16-11-37
Prime scoring area attempts: SCSU: 3-6-7-16 UNO: 7-5-4-16
What do the numbers tell us?
The five-on-five numbers were mostly even in the first two periods, but Omaha's first period goal right after a power play and early second period power play goal were difference makers. The Huskies numbers were better late in the game when they trailed, but nearly enough to mount any sort of a comeback.
5:18 Jake Guentzel from David Pope and Luc Snuggerud 1-0 Omaha
Snuggerud's shot from the point bounced off the back glass to the front of the net. Pope got a stick on the carom and Lindgren made a pad save, but Guentzel was in position to jam the rebound into an open net.
3:21 David Pope from Jake Randolph and Luc Snuggerud (power play) 2-0 Omaha
Pope caught a pass from Randolph at the left circle. His low wrist shot along the ice beat Lindgren to the near side.
10:30 Brian Cooper from Joel Messner and Justin Parizek 3-0 Omaha
Cooper took a low wrist shot from the top of the point that found its' way through traffic and beat Lindgren low to the right side.
11:18 Jimmy Schuldt from David Morley 3-1 Omaha
Morley had the puck behind the Omaha net. Schuldt snuck into the slot from the left point and one-timed a shot past Weninger.
14:13 Ryan Galt from Luke Nogard 4-1 Omaha
Nogard won the puck in the neutral zone on the left wing to create a 2-on-1 opportunity. His high shot to the far post hit Lindgren in the shoulder and left a big rebound for Galt to put into the net.
1:49 Justin Parizek from Ian Brady (power play) 5-1 Omaha
Parizek's high shot from the left circle deflected off Rasmus Reijola's glove and trickled into the net.
4:45 Mason Morelli from Avery Peterson and Luke Nogard 6-1 Omaha
Peterson's high wrist shot hit Reijola's glove and trickled towards the goal line. Morelli gave it an extra little push to get it across the line.
9:16 Robby Jackson from Jacob Benson and Jimmy Schuldt (power play) 6-2 Omaha
Benson forced a turnover on the left half boards. He skated towards the front of the net and made a pass across the crease to Jackson for the goal.
12:07 Ian Brady from Steven Spinner and Frederik Olofsson (power play) 7-2 Omaha
Brady took a pass all alone in the slot and his wrist shot beat Reijola to the blocker side.