Five Things We Learned: UNO v UMD

Nebraska-Omaha forward Brock Montpetit scores against Minnesota Duluth goaltender Kenny Reiter in UMD's 6-2 win over the Mavericks on Jan. 13, 2012. (Photo credit: Michelle Bishop)

1.) Saturday’s win puts Nebraska-Omaha in a good position going forward.
The Mavericks had been thoroughly outplayed in Friday’s 6-2 defeat to top-ranked Minnesota Duluth, and UMD ran the show for most of Saturday night, as well. The difference in the rematch, however, was that the game’s timely goals went UNO’s way, not UMD’s.

The Bulldogs outshot the Mavericks 44-15 on the night – and a ridiculous 84-39 on the weekend – but, on Saturday, UMD couldn’t finish and UNO did. Three of UNO’s 15 shots went in – though Bulldog goaltender Kenny Reiter was blameless on the first goal, a redirection by Terry Broadhurst on a long shot from Bryce Aneloski – and 43 of UMD’s 44 didn’t.

UNO goalie Ryan Massa was largely to thank for that, but a team of UMD’s caliber ought to be putting points on the board when it’s throwing that many shots on target.

At any rate, Saturday’s win is big for UNO. The Mavericks are now tied with Denver for fourth place in the WCHA, and knocking off the top-ranked team in the country should give UNO plenty of confidence going into its final handful of games before the league playoffs.

2.) Massa is UNO’s goalie of the future and its present.
UNO head coach Dean Blais still hasn’t picked one of his four goaltenders to ride going into the regular season’s home stretch, but Massa helped himself a lot in that regard Saturday.

The one goal the freshman from Littleton, Colo. conceded was preventable – though, in fairness, all of UNO’s players on the ice were scrambling in their own zone ahead of Jack Connolly’s goal – but Massa still put in arguably UNO’s best goaltending performance of the season on Saturday.

Blais said following the game that he thought Massa only had a so-so week of practice, but the freshman certainly showed up when called upon Saturday. His positioning was solid, and once he got into a rhythm, he showed good consistency and looked comfortable with the heavy workload.

3.) A sellout is a sellout, even when it kind of isn’t.
UNO had been trying for weeks to fill CenturyLink Center for Friday’s game, and the university’s ‘Sell Out Duluth’ campaign certainly put butts in seats. During Friday’s third period, it was announced that the game was indeed sold out, with an announced attendance of 16,138.

For anyone that was at the game, however, it was clear that there wasn’t north of 16,000 people in attendance. The arena was mostly full, but the building was checkered with empty brown seats.

That said, I don’t really blame UNO for this. I just wish the casual sports fans in Omaha had come out in bigger numbers to see one its hometown teams square off against the No. 1 team in the country. Omaha is an event town. Why should UNO’s efforts to sell out its building be any different to other events for which Omahans come out in droves?

4.) UNO should have no complaints about either of its major penalties this weekend.
This might be an unpopular opinion amongst UNO die-hards, especially if the ‘Reiter deserved it’ thread on Mavpuck is anything to go by. I mean, really, people…

UNO freshman forward Josh Archibald was sent off Friday for checking UMD’s Jack Connolly from behind into the boards, earning a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

Rule 6, section 23, article B of the NCAA ice hockey rule book states that hitting from behind into the end or side boards or goal cage is a flagrant violation and calls for a major penalty and game misconduct or disqualification at the referees’ discretion.

Connolly had only just turned his back to Archibald right before the hit, but it’s still an automatic penalty. Archibald had to go.

Another UNO player was given his marching orders on Saturday. Late in the game’s second period, UNO forward Alex Simonson leveled Reiter in front of the Maverick bench.

Reiter was heading off the ice for an extra attacker as a penalty was already coming against UNO. Simonson played the puck in front of the bench for a whistle and then ran over Reiter.

I haven’t seen a replay of the incident – which, admittedly, could help change my mind on this – but at the time, it appeared that Simonson kept moving straight ahead after playing the puck and didn’t appear to try and get out of Reiter’s way.

A major penalty for charging the goaltender and a 10-minute game misconduct were called against Simonson. UNO fans weren’t happy with the call – or, evidently, with Reiter – but thankfully tempers didn’t escalate further on either side in the game’s third period.

5.) UMD is, collectively, human.
The Bulldogs’ fantastic 17-game unbeaten streak was finally snapped on Saturday, with UMD dropping its first decision since losing 5-4 to Minnesota way back on Oct. 15.

It was always going to take a big effort for an opponent to end UMD’s streak, and that’s what UNO put in on Saturday. Again, timely goals and an outstanding performance from Ryan Massa in the Maverick net saw UNO through, and the win came, Blais revealed after the game, while many UNO players were sick with flu-like symptoms.

That said, this loss won’t break or even bend the Bulldogs’ composure. A winning streak as long as UMD’s was always going to come to an end eventually, and it’s not so bad to have it come on the road, especially when you’ve already taken two points on the weekend.

UMD won’t be slowed down by Saturday’s result, and the Bulldogs will likely still finish the WCHA regular season at the top of the tree if they can hold Minnesota at bay. With a favorable schedule the rest of the way, UMD should be able to do just that and, perhaps, put together a new extended winning streak.

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