It took just 16 seconds of game time for St. Cloud State to go from a blown third period lead and crippling loss to a 4-3 marquee victory over Nebraska-Omaha on Friday night at the Herb Brooks National Center.
The Huskies would build an early lead on a power play tallies from junior defenseman Ethan Prow and Patrick Russell, who tipped in a Prow shot from the point. Ian Brady would cut the lead Husky lead to 2-1 in the second period, setting up a wild finish in the final frame.
After a quiet first nine minutes of the period, the Mavericks would tie the game at two when Tyler Vesel finished off a pretty passing play with a tap-in goal. The Mavericks would take the lead 90 seconds later when Austin Ortega scored what looked at the time like his 11th game-winning goal of the season.
But the Huskies weren't done yet. Blake Winiecki tied the score at three with 3:04 to play when he turned a harmless looking rush into a goal with a wicked wrist shot. Off the ensuing face-off, St. Cloud State brought the puck back into the Omaha zone, and after Ryan Massa left a rebound on a Joey Benik shot, David Morley was right on the doorstep to deflect a clearing attempt off his shin pad and into the goal to score the game-winning goal just 16 seconds after St. Cloud State tied the game.
The win moves St. Cloud State to an overall record of 14-14-1, both putting them inside the top-16 of the Pairwise Rankings, and making them eligible for an NCAA tournament at-large with a .500 record. Omaha needed a win tonight to keep pace with North Dakota atop the NCHC standings. They sit tied for second place in the league with Miami, who also lost tonight, and three points from falling out of home ice in the NCHC playoffs.
The two teams meet again tomorrow night in the series final at 7pm.
Shots on Goal: SCSU: 13-9-17-39 UNO: 6-13-7-46
Even Strength Shot Attempts: SCSU: 19-11-26-56-56% UNO: 15-16-13-44-44%
Prime Scoring Area Attempts: SCSU: 6-6-9 UNO: 6-9-5
What do the numbers tell us?
St. Cloud State had the advantage in the first period, without even taking into account the near seven minutes they spent on the man advantage. Omaha came back and won the second period in convincing fashion, but St. Cloud State dominated the third period of play. Contrary to expectation, a lot of the St. Cloud State pressure came in the early stages of the period when they held the 2-1 lead rather than in the latter half when they trailed.
-We have to start at the end of the game because, wow, what a finish. This could all be moot 24 hours from now, but the final three-ish minutes of this game could be the defining moment of St. Cloud State's season. Even with a win tomorrow, the Huskies would have just been treading water if they had lost tonight's game. They needed a series sweep somewhere along the line if they wanted to get into the NCAA tournament, and now they've got the opportunity to get one tomorrow.
-The Huskies got a huge break early when they were given a five-minute power play 4:16 into the first. The extended power play was for the most part a complete slopfest, but four minutes into the man advantage, Ethan Prow just fired a shot into traffic and it snuck through for a goal. Escaping that big penalty early would have made a huge difference for UNO as they struggled to find their legs early on the road.
-The key to both power play goals for the Huskies wasn't the shot by Prow, but the wonderful screen set up by Patrick Russell in front of Ryan Massa. Russell ended up getting credit for the second goal after it was reviewed on video. Taking away the eyes of Ryan Massa was a big priority for the Huskies tonight. Massa was sharp--at least until the last two goals--and it was going to take gritty goals like that to beat him.
Massa really kept the Mavericks in this game, especially early in the third period when he made some brilliant saves. He made a huge save moments before Omaha tied the game at two, and moments after they tied the game at two that could have been difference-makers if the Mavericks had held onto the lead.
-Massa's counterpart Charlie Lindgren deserves a lot of credit as well. He was very sharp tonight. After Omaha got down 2-0 early in the game, they had some great opportunities to cut into the lead late in the first period and early in the second period that Lindgren stopped to preserve the lead. The third goal was Ortega was a bit soft, but otherwise, he really helped steal this game for the Huskies with some big saves.
-The Mavericks weren't quite as sharp as they needed to be tonight. They set up a few beautiful plays in the offensive zone with nice cross-ice passes that just jumped over sticks and otherwise would have been easy goals. They almost managed to steal one on a night they didn't have their best, which is the sign of a very good team, but just got a little unlucky.
-Official attendance was never announced but it was a very small crowd for St. Cloud State tonight, and one that never seemed that engaged until the excitement at the end. It was certainly much smaller and quieter than the announced 4400 that was here in January when I covered an SCSU game against Miami, when they were offering 2-for-1 ticket deals. But at the same time, it definitely wasn't half as small. The $35/ticket they charged tonight was definitely more profitable, but didn't do much for the atmosphere in the arena.
8:16 Ethan Prow from Kalle Kossila and Joey Benik (power play) 1-0 St. Cloud State
Off a broken play on the St. Cloud State power play, Prow took a high wrist shot from the top of the point that went past a screened Ryan Massa for a goal.
12:11 Patrick Russell from Ethan Prow and Kalle Kossila (power play) 2-0 St. Cloud State
Prow took another shot from the point through a screen that Russell deflected in front of the net and past Kossila.
18:14 Ian Brady from Jake Guentzel (power play) 2-1 St. Cloud State
Guentzel won a draw cleanly at the left circle back to Brady, who fired a wrist shot from the point. The puck deflected off a St. Cloud State defender in front of the net and past Lindgren.
9:26 Tyler Vesel from Justin Parizek and Ian Brady 2-2 tie
Brady skated the puck into the offensive zone down the left wing and made a cross-ice pass to Parizek. Vesel drove hard to the net up the middle of the ice and took a pass from Parizek that he tipped into an open net.
10:56 Austin Ortega from Jake Guentzel (power play) 3-2 Nebraska-Omaha
Off a face-off at the right circle, Guentzel won the draw to his left. Ortega took one stride in from the left hash and one-timed a shot that beat Lindgren.
16:56 Blake Winiecki from Joe Rehkamp and Andrew Prochno 3-3 tie
Rehkamp skated the puck into the zone and fed Winiecki on the left wing. Winiecki fired a high wrist shot over the glove of Massa and into the upper corner of the net.
17:12 David Morley from Joey Benik 4-3 St. Cloud State
16 seconds after St. Cloud State tied the game, ___ brought the puck into the zone down the left wing and fired a low shot that Massa failed to control the rebound on. The a UNO defender tried to clear the rebound and the attempt bounced off the shin pad of Morley and into the net.