Over the course of a 36-game schedule, there are going to be tough games. There’s definitely going to be bumps in the road. That’s sports at any level. For whatever reason, a good team will have an off night at the rink.
Tonight was one of those nights.
From the drop of the first puck, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks chased the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks up and down the ice. For most of the night, the Hawks were a step slow, and couldn’t get the momentum when they needed it.
The Fighting Hawks passes missed the mark all night long. On two separate occasions, the Hawks turned over the puck deep in the defensive zone, only to have the puck end in the back of their net.
It just wasn’t UND’s night.
Surprisingly, even the highly talented CBS line looked like they were out of synch for most of the night. UND’s starting goalie Cam Johnson finally looked human after being a brick wall for most of December.
In the end, the Mavericks stopped UND’s eight-game winning streak in overtime. With the win, the Mavericks also stopped a two-game losing streak.
The game left a bad taste in the UND players’ mouth and defenseman Troy Stecher pulled no punches in the post-game press conference.
“You have to give them credit, they capitalized on their opportunities,” Stecher said. “We gave them three goals. We’re pissed off in that room. I think that’s a game we want back. We just have to learn from it.
“Facts are facts,” Stecher said. “We’re a young team. We have a lot of freshmen, but it’s time to mature and grow up a bit. We’re done with non-conference games. Every game is going to be a playoff mentality, heading into the national tournament; we have to win a game like this.”
Head coach Brad Berry wasn’t quite as critical has his fiery team leader, but the message was the same.
“I thought our puck management was a little erratic tonight, especially in the second period tonight,” Berry said. “That’s a good team that we were playing against. They have a lot of good players that score off the rush. Indicative of the overtime goal. We have to be sharper and cleaner with our puck management.”
On the game winning goal, you could see it coming all the way down the ice. The Hawks were in the Mavericks end and didn’t get a puck deep. With a pass of the puck, Austin Ortega was going the other way with the puck on his stick. Ortega buried the puck sending the Mavericks home with the win.
That’s good news for the Mavericks, bad news for the Fighting Hawks. Ortega entered the game leading the nation in game-winning goals and added to his total with his 17th goal of the season to ice it for the Mavericks.
“We had a kick out play,” coach Berry said. “We were going into the offensive zone. We practice it all of the time. You shoot for an opportunity and go for a rebound. I am not sure if he got a toe on it. Or if he missed the net, but if you miss the net off of a rush when you got guys going to it.
“Then it comes back the other way. It came back to the point. We didn’t punch it down in. We had a D-man going down that tried to carry it in. They knocked it off our stick and they go three on one the other way. In situations like that, we have to make sure that we punch pucks deep and live for the next play.”
With the loss, UND drops to (18-3-3, 9-2-0 NCHC). UNO improves to (15-5-1, 5-5-1 NCHC).
UND sophomore goalie Cam Johnson lost for the first time in his college career and is now (9-1-1, 1.31 GAA, .947 save percentage). For the game, UND outshot UNO 29-23.