1.) Saturday’s win was – or it should be, anyway – a season-defining victory for Nebraska Omaha.
Following Friday’s 4-3 loss to Colorado College where UNO saw a potential game-tying goal controversially waved off late in the game, the Mavericks could have come out Saturday with their heads hanging low.
That didn’t happen, though. Instead, UNO was a team on a mission in Saturday’s rematch at Colorado Springs’s World Arena – especially in the game’s third period – and the Mavericks ran out 5-3 winners over the No. 15 Tigers.
UNO sophomore forward Ryan Walters starred in the Mavericks’ comeback, tying the game 2:48 into the final frame with a shorthanded goal before beating CC goaltender Josh Thorimbert again from the right wing at 7:48.
The Mavericks were unlucky in losing the previous night’s game, as it looked as though UNO freshman Dominic Zombo had scored a late equalizer for the visitors. The goal was waved off, though, with the referees concluding that Zombo had kicked the puck in with his right skate.
Zombo made his mark on Saturday’s game, however, finally scoring his first goal as a Maverick at 11:43 of the game.
“There is a hockey God,” UNO head coach Dean Blais told the Omaha World-Herald News Service when asked about the freshman’s goal.
2.) Dean Blais’s goalie switch Saturday paid dividends.
Just as the UNO head coach pulled freshman goaltender Ryan Massa early in the Mavericks’ 4-4 draw at Michigan Tech on Feb. 10, Blais brought the newcomer on in relief in Saturday’s third period.
Both moves were made for a reason: To light a fire under the rest of the team. And, both times, it worked.
Maverick junior goaltender John Faulkner started Saturday’s game against CC, but his night was complete after the end of the game’s second period. Blais opted to bring Massa in, and the Colorado native stopped all 15 shots he faced in the final frame.
Faulkner had given up three goals in Saturday’s second period, and Blais felt that the change in net could help UNO bounce back in the third.
“I just had a feeling Ryan had the ability to go in and shut them down in the third period, just like putting Johnny in for Ryan last Friday,” Blais told reporters.
“It’s a gut feeling and you go with it, and usually it’s right.”
3.) UNO will be glad it never has to face Nick Dineen again. Unless, of course, they meet in the playoffs.
Coming into Dineen’s senior season at CC, the Omaha native knew that, if he was healthy, he would face his hometown team four times this season. He terrorized UNO in all four.
Dineen scored four goals against UNO this season and earned at least one point in each game. He scored the Tigers’ third goal Friday and ended the season series against UNO with four goals and four assists.
4.) Both UNO and CC got what they wanted from the weekend: A confidence boost.
Both the Mavericks and the Tigers came into last weekend’s series with worries on their minds. CC had been winless in its last three games, and UNO was fighting to stay in the top six of the WCHA standings in order to clinch home ice for the first round of the league playoffs.
With a win for both teams in Colorado Springs, both teams will be happy with their lots. The Tigers got better as Friday’s game went on, even though they were fortunate to win the game, and UNO’s explosive third period on Saturday ought to give the Mavericks a big boost heading into their final four games of the regular season.
5.) UNO is in a good position going into its four biggest games of the season.
With No. 6 Minnesota and No. 9 Denver coming to Omaha on consecutive weeks to round out the WCHA regular season, UNO has in front of it its four biggest games of the season all in a row.
UNO is a team in good nick health-wise, though, and Saturday’s come-from-behind win – capping off the Mavericks’ 2-1-1 stretch over its last four games, all on the road – should mean that we see a confident UNO team on the ice when it finally comes back to the friendlier confines of CenturyLink Center later this week.
“We played real well in this four-game segment, and now we’ve got another four-game segment — all at home — with two of the best teams in the country,” Blais said. “We’ll have a good week of practice and raise our level of play again.”