R.J. Umberger netted two, including the game-winner, as Ohio State beat Nebraska-Omaha 3-1 to complete a weekend sweep of the Mavericks.
Umberger’s 12 and 13th goals of the season were his third and fourth of the weekend in an effort that saw OSU outshoot UNO 40-20 tonight, 82-35 for the series.
“I thought it was a good game,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I thought it was an exciting game to sit behind the bench and watch.
“They [UNO] played a better game [than Friday’s contest]. I thought there were periods of time where we kind of took the momentum away in the second and third period, but definitely in the first period we had our opportunities…but Ellis gives them a chance to win every night. He played fantastic.”
As he was in Friday’s 4-1 loss, Dan Ellis was exceptional, especially in the second period when he stymied Daymen Bencharski three times from close range.
His counterpart, Mike Betz, was tested just 19 times and allowed a goal, but as the game progressed, the play became end-to-end, and the Mavericks never quit, throwing everything they could at Betz in the third. Betz kept the game 2-1 midway through the third before Umberger’s second goal, stopping Scotty Turner, Josh Weeks, and Anthony Adams all at close range.
“I thought Mike Betz stood up to the task, too,” said Markell. “Right there at the end, they could have tied it up two-two … and that’s what you want from your goalie, to be there for the big save. Look at the difference it is.”
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 2-0 lead before six minutes of hockey had been played — and before the Mavericks registered a shot on net — on a power-play goal by Rod Pelley and Umberger’s first score of the night.
Turner brought the Mavs to within one late in the first on the power play, and it looked as though the first period’s final score would be the game’s final score as well until the third period when Betz saved not just Micah Sanford’s initial shot but Adams’ rebound. The plays energized the Buckeyes, who picked up the Adams rebound and took an odd-man rush into the Maverick end.
Once again, Umberger’s goal at 13:47 was one for the highlight reel, a pretty pop midway up on the short side, the only possible place where the OSU junior could exploit Ellis on the play.
UNO head coach Mike Kemp noted that his squad’s effort was better in this contest than last night’s, but the Mavericks could have played with more intensity, he said.
“Obviously, you’re trying to get as much out of your team as possible every day,” said Kemp, “so we certainly address issues making sure we play thorough and complete.
“I thought we played acceptably for a period of time. I wasn’t overly pleased with our first period. It was better, but it was still wasn’t up to standards. In the second and third we started turning it up a little bit, especially in the late second, and in the third period I was real pleased with the way we played.”
Umberger did all he could to get the empty-net goal for a hat trick, but he was more looking for a point of any kind at the end of the night; his second goal of the game was his 99th career point as a Buckeye.
“I was [watching the clock],” said Umberger, who literally camped himself near open ice with Ellis out of the net and the seconds ticking away.
The Mavericks (7-9-2, 5-7-0 CCHA) are idle until they take on Notre Dame at home Jan. 3-4. Kemp said the break will be welcome. “Some players will heal up.”
With the win, the Buckeyes (12-4-1, 9-2-1) move to within one point of first place in the CCHA behind Ferris State, and also complete their fifth sweep of the season. Next up for OSU is the Everblades College Classic in Estero, Fla., where it faces Massachusetts in the opening game Dec. 28.
Although Markell said that his players were looking forward to the time off before Christmas, but Umberger — who is responsible for three of OSU’s last four game-winning goals — said, “Thanksgiving break was good enough for me.”