The Takeaway: Willows Hat Trick Leads UNH Past UNO

Posted by: Josh Seguin

Durham, NH- It is amazing how fast a game can change at times, but for UNH it took all of one minute, and 42 seconds in the third period to turn a deficit into a win. Nebraska-Omaha scored the only goal in the first period, when Josh Archibald got a lucky bounce off the fist of Brett Pesce that went into the net to give UNO a 1-0 first intermission lead. Much like the first period, the second period was a defensive chess match but UNH scored a tying goal one minute, 52 seconds into the period when Casey Thrush backhanded a rebound into the net.

The Third period, however, was much different. Nebraska-Omaha scored a go-ahead goal off the stick of Ryan Walters to give them a 2-1 lead. That lead held until the 13:46 mark of the third, when it became the Matt Willows show. Matt Willows tied the game at two and then scored a go ahead goal 1:42 late. Nick Sorkin put the game away moments later on the power-play. Willows completed the hat trick with an empty netter, which he accomplished in 4:30. The win completed the sweep for UNH and improves its record 12-10-1 on the season, while Nebraska-Omaha falls to 8-9-1.

What I Saw

  • Nebraska-Omaha played a much better team game tonight than it did last night and was rewarded with a late lead. It responded well to its coach not behind the bench for the second time in as many nights but then again when the going got tough it didn’t. For 53 minutes, Omaha was the better of the two teams but UNH began its onslaught on the power-play, as it did in the second period the night prior. UNO just had no answer for UNH’s offense and especially its power-play.
  • UNH has one of the best power-plays in the country and it was on display again tonight. UNH generates much of its offense from its defense, which helps immensely on the man advantage. It may only be ranked 22nd, but it generates a ton of momentum for them. This weekend it scored four crucial goals for the Wildcats, which were ultimately the difference in the weekend.

What I Thought

  • Nebraska-Omaha is going to have a long flight home, mainly because it failed to execute on many great opportunities. The two-headed monster of Josh Archibald and Ryan Walters were combined on a line tonight. Many teams will have no answer for it, but this weekend Archibald and Walters combined for all five of the Mavericks goals. Unfortunately, teams will start focusing on them because other players hardly showed flashes on the weekend. Both are great players, but the supporting cast was the main reason UNO goes home without a win. If not for a shot high, it was a shot off the post or a missed defensive assignment. The only players on the ice that showed a spark were the two aforementioned great players.
  • What else can be said of UNH’s last seven minutes? Being down by one with 6:14 to go and then coming back to win the game going away was quite impressive. It was the second time this season that UNH has scored four goals in quick succession, as it accomplished the same feat even quicker against Colorado College. UNH just might be showing flashes of being an explosive team, only time will tell though.

What They Said

Nebraska-Omaha assistant coach Alex Todd said,

“The response tonight I thought was better (being without head coach Dean Blais). The first time without the head coach is a little different. The guys tonight were more receptive and asking more questions to make sure everybody was on the same page. When you have a coach like Dean, who does a really good job of communicating, and so Troy and I both really worked hard on our communication.”

“We love being able to play against good teams, in good buildings.From a coaching staff standpoint, we have been on the same page so there really wasn’t anything different as much as a little more pressure that we are doing what exactly Dean preaches.”

UNH coach Dick Umile said,

“We just liked the way the team competed. They worked all night and there was a great pace to the game. The want and the will to win this weekend was tremendous and I give them a lot of credit for that.”

“Tonight we put together a great third period. Last night I thought the second period was the determining factor in the game but tonight it was the third. That was a battle the whole game. They got the goal to go ahead on the four and three but the guys stayed with it. It was just unselfish play from our guys.”

What Else You Should Know

UNH freshman, Tyler Kelleher, missed the weekend with the flu. Matt Willows was questionable until this afternoon, when it was learned he had a minor shoulder sprain. He was cleared by doctors to play, but it was ultimately his decision to play. Guessing it was a good plan, as he scored a hat trick.

UNH will play Dartmouth next weekend in its annual Battle for the Riverstone Cup. Dartmouth comes into the matchup a paltry 2-11-2 on the season. UNH better not overlook them, as Dartmouth has some talent. Dartmouth will be missing its best player though, in Tyler Sikura.

Nebraska-Omaha returns home to host Minnesota-Duluth next weekend for a pair of crucial NCHC games.

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