(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee for Violent Turtle Photography)
In front of 10,133 fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks dropped their second half opener to the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks 4-1. The Mavericks utilized two power play goals, timely goaltending from Evan Weninger, and team speed to generate countless high percentage looks to take this game. Fredrik Olofsson, Luke Nogard, David Pope, and Zach Jordan contributed tallys for the Mavericks. Shane Gersich provided the only UND goal 17:23 into the first period on a penalty shot. Weninger made 34 saves for the Mavericks, while his counterpart Cam Johnson only made 17 saves for UND.
In the first period, UND played with five defenseman for over half of the frame due to a Christian Wolanin ten minute misconduct. The junior defenseman also took a holding minor on the play. The Mavericks did not convert on their first power play chance but took advantage of UND playing without their defensive leader later on.
10:44 into the game, Zack Jordan beautifully screened Cam Johnson and Fredrik Olaffson took a pass from Tristan Keck on a Matt Kiersted turnover and rifled one past Johnson to give the Mavericks an early lead 1-0 lead.
17:23 into the first period, just after the Fighting Hawks stifled the Mavericks power play for the second time in the first frame, forward Shane Gersich walked in on a breakaway and was hauled down by a Mavericks defender. He converted his penalty shot chance thanks to a slow build up and picking the perfect time to wrist one through the five hole of Weninger to tie things up heading into the first intermission.
In the second frame, Omaha withstood an early barrage of UND chances, The Fighting Hawks matched their eight shots on net from the first early in the second. Despite that, and several chances on their power play UND could not convert. UND out shot UNO 20-7 in the second. Despite that, a mere eight UND shot attempts of their 30 in the frame came from inside and below the faceoff dots in the low slot.
8:20 into the second period, Luke Nogard put home a puck through the five hole Cam Johnson on a Zach Jordan shot. The power play tally gave the Mavericks their second lead of the evening. Capitals prospect and Mavericks forward Steven Spinner contributed a secondary assist. He generated some time in the corner on the power play, saw the opening to feed Jordan, and did not misfire the pass.
Less than four minutes later, David Pope took a superb feed from Ryan Jones and rifled one past Johnson from just outside the right faceoff circle to give UNO a two goal lead 12:17 into the second
Finally, in the third period, Zach Jordan capitalized on an offensive zone turnover, walked in and went top shelf glove side on Johnson to provide the final 4-1 margin 09:44 into the final frame.
Both teams are back at it for the series finale tonight at 7:07 PM at the Ralph.
- UND needs to improve on generating higher quality chances. The Mavericks did an outstanding job at blocking shots and limiting second-chance opportunities. On Saturday, UND has to work on making quicker passes along the boards and make more in-cutting plays instead of going for dump-and-chase or shoot in type plays when entering the offensive zone. The Fighting Hawks have an outstanding ability to forecheck but need to use their own speed to get the puck into the offensive zone more. The UNO defense did an outstanding job limiting opportunities to retrieve the puck on chip-and-chase plays from UND all night.
- The Fighting Hawks have been at their best when they can generate more goalie screens. They did not do enough of that against the Mavericks. Look for some of UND’s line changes tonight to be geared towards generating more net front presence.
- Give credit to UNO. They won 31 of 67 draws against one of the best faceoff teams in the nation. While UND won the faceoff battle, that stat was largely influenced by Rhett Gardner and Nick Jones (15/8, and 10/8) having good nights at the dot. The rest of the UND forwards to take a draw finished no better than 50 percent on the evening.