Durham, NH- Nebraska Omaha played its first game in nearly a month and execution became its biggest enemy against New Hampshire. It was also without its head coach, Dean Blais, and defenseman Jaycob Megna who were both suspended for an exchange of improper benefits.
Nebraska-Omaha scored the first goal of the night, as Josh Archibald received a pass from Ian Brady all alone in the slot at three minutes, 34 seconds of the first period to beat UNH goaltender Casey Desmith. UNH responded six minutes later on the power-play, when Eric Knodel blasted a shot from the point. Knodel added another power-play goal with 32 seconds remaining to give UNH a 2-1 first intermission lead.
The second period was owned by the Wildcats, but UNO scored first in the period when Austin Ortega made an individual drive down the right slot and wristed a shot off the cross-bar, down into the net to tie the game at one. It was a false sense of a close game, as UNH would dominate the rest of period. Matt Willows gave UNH the lead for good at 12:18 when he found a puck sent towards the net by Kevin Goumas and put it behind Maverick goaltender, Ryan Massa. Dan Correale and Casey Thrush added goals late in the third period to give the Wildcats a commanding 5-2 lead heading into the third period.
Nebraska-Omaha and New Hampshire traded goals in the third period. Josh Archibald added his second of the night on a breakaway and Kevin Goumas scored a break-away, empty net goal, as UNH defeated UNO 6-3 in front of 2987 at the Whittemore Center. Josh Archibald and Eric Knodel scored two on the night, while UNH’s Trevor van Riemsdyk added a trio of assists.The win improves UNH’s record to 11-10-1 on the season, while dropping UNO’s record back to .500 at 8-8-1.
What I Saw
- Nebraska-Omaha looked like a team that hasn’t played in over a month. Its passes weren’t crisp, it had trouble finding UNH skaters in the defensive zone and it struggled getting off quality shots. It was a matter of execution for the Mavericks on the night on both ends of the ice.
- UNH found the open skater and did a really good job in the second period of taking it to the Mavericks, who seemed to have a hard time finding the puck. Its power-play was phenomenal in the first, as Eric Knodel blasted a pair into the back of the net and the confidence of finding the open man seemingly carried into the second period. Although, the third may have not been the most quality of periods, its first two periods had to be promising.
- What else can be said of UNO’s, Josh Archibald? I have never seen him play before, live, and I left the game thinking he was one of the better players in the country, which he is made out to me. He seems to have a knack of finding the puck and being in the right places. He also has a wicked wrister and the ability to just find the back of the net. It may not have been his best al-around game, as was point out by Jutting in the post-game, but he is a great hockey player.
What I Thought
- Nebraska-Omaha struggled mightily on the big sheet. One of the things that a team must do on the olympic size sheet, like the Whittemore Center, is it must clog the slot and the middle of the ice. It failed to do this and struggled. It tried to fight the game along the walls instead of clogging skaters coming through the neutral zone. UNH’s second period goals were all fed by this, as UNH passed it along the interior to wide open skaters. Omaha also struggled at Colorado College before the break, one has to wonder if it is not coincidence. Tonight though the ice seemed to play a factor.
- UNH played arguably its best period of the season in the second period. The Wildcats outshot the Mavericks 14-7 in the second period and outscored a really good team 3-1 in the process. It needed a period like this, as it has struggled mightily against many of the top clubs in the country. It might be a period that propels them into the second half, it was certainly much needed to score three in a period. The six goals tied a season high for UNH, and were the most in a home game.
What They Said
Nebraska-Omaha Assistant Coach Troy Jutting said,
“Obviously it was disappointing as I don’t think we played our best hockey. But I thought UNH did a nice job with those early power-plays. We started out really well but I think they got a jump after they scored the two on the power-play. We didn’t respond well to giving up those two goals.”
“We struggled defensively. I thought UNH did a great job of taking advantage of certain situations that they created. We did not do a great defensively and we looked like a team that hadn’t played in over a month.”
“It is difficult obviously missing coach and with Megs, one of our leaders on the blue-line, out. I thought the want was there but the execution was not,”
Nebraska-Omaha forward Josh Archibald,
“They played well tonight and we just weren’t working our systems. They took advantage of it and they were the better team tonight.”
“It was different at times we are used to him being behind the bench (Blais) giving us pointers and letting us know who is going next. It is a different change but we have two great assistant coaches right now, so it helps out a lot.”
“The bigger ice sheet are a lot different for us, as we are used to playing on NHL size rinks. Coming to the big rink, we aren’t quite used to the extra ice and the teams that play on it often take advantage of that.”
UNH Coach Dick Umile said,
“I was pleased with the way we played. The guys broke down there fore-check down after the first five minutes and from that point on we took control of the hockey game.”
“We played as good of a second period as we have in a long time. We moved the puck well but we missed some scoring opportunities, on top of the fact we scored a few.”
What Else You Should Know
New Hampshire and Nebraska-Omaha will conclude their two game series on Saturday night. If tonight was any indication it should be a lot closer. The third period was a tightly played period and UNO actually held the territorial advantage for much of it