Grand Forks, ND – The Fighting Sioux, winners of four-straight, five out of their last six and fresh off of a sweep of Alaska-Anchorage last weekend on the road, welcomed an old friend to Ralph Englestad Arena for a two-game series.
That four-game winning streak would come to an end tonight with a hard fought 2-1 loss in overtime to the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks.
Overall, coach Hakstol said that he “thought that his team battled hard through 60 minutes, a very close hockey game.”
The Mavericks, led by former Fighting Sioux head coach Dean Blais, came to Grand Forks looking to rebound from a weekend series where Blais saw his team split against the UAH Chargers — a team that hadn’t won a game until last weekend. After the 3-1 loss to the UAH Chargers last Friday, UNO head coach Dean Blais said he was “embarrassed” with the loss.
Friday night, coach Blais was much happier with the win against his former team.
“It was a great up and down game, tough game to lose, obviously,” Blais said. “Both teams were playing so hard. We hoped for a bounce of the puck, we got that.”
“We had three guys right around the net and blocked the shot, and Matt White makes a great neutral zone transition and we ended up scoring a great goal in overtime.”
The series between the Sioux and UNO has been short-lived — the Sioux and the Mavericks had never played a game until last season when the Mavericks joined the WCHA. The two teams have played some epic games and split their first series last November in Omaha, and then followed up that series with another split last January in Grand Forks.
All four games were highly contested, hard-hitting affairs. Only one game of the five has been a blow out — the other four games were never decided by more than two goals. Tonight was no different, as both teams battled hard and both goalies played extremely well.
Fighting Sioux goalie Aaron Dell stopped 33 of 35 shots and Mavericks goalie John Falkner stopped 24 of 25 shots.
The first period started out slow and both teams kind of felt each other out. Both teams played a cautious grind it out style of hockey. Neither team generated very many scoring opportunities. The Mavericks outshot the Fighting Sioux in the first period, 12-10.
The hitting picked up even more in the second period, and the Mavericks finally got on the board at the 13:46 of the second period with what could only be described as a very odd goal. Mavericks forward Matt White shot the puck on the Sioux net, Sioux goalie Aaron Dell made the initial stop and the puck somehow slid under him into the net. After a quick review by the officials, Omaha was awarded a goal.
The Fighting Sioux were able to score the equalizer at the 1:22 mark of the third period. A bad turnover by the Mavericks in the defensive zone ended on the stick of Connor Gaarder. He fed Carter Rowney, who scored a nice goal from the slot.
“It was a great goal pass by Gords (the team’s nickname for Gaarder),” said Rowney. “Was coming in high and he got the pass through to me and I had half the net there. Props to Gords for getting the puck through to me.”
It was only fitting that this game would go to overtime. With the Fighting Sioux pressing down low in the Maverick end, the Sioux turned the puck over to White, who was able to spring Ryan Walters on a breakaway. Walters shot the puck past Dell to give the Mavericks a 2-1 win.
Said UND coach Dave Hakstol: “We got caught puck watching with the two guys in the back end and they got a quick transition play.”