Sexy hockey it wasnâ€™t on Friday night between Ferris State and Nebraska-Omaha, but Bob Danielsâ€™ Bulldogs wonâ€™t mind too much — not after taking two points against a CCHA opponent on the road.
While neither team often gave the 5,840 in attendance at Qwest Center Omaha a terribly entertaining game to watch, the visitors simply did what they had to do, relying on a pair of timely goals from their all-sophomore fourth line and 29 saves from freshman goaltender Taylor Nelson en route to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
Opportunism and the odd lucky bounce could have seen the Bulldogs (5-3-3, 4-1-2-0 CCHA) really take control in the first period, but with only junior forward Aaron Lewicki finding the net in the opening frame, UNO looked as though they might have gotten out of jail when they twice capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period.
The Mavericksâ€™ resulting lead would be short-lived, however, as FSU fourth-liners Nate Hennig and Mike Embach would turn the tables back in the Bulldogsâ€™ favor before Nelson and the defense in front of him made sure that the home crowd would leave disappointed
â€œThis was a tough one. You really donâ€™t know what to say,â€ said UNO defenseman Nick Von Bokern, who had temporarily put the Mavericks ahead with his goal in the second period. â€œYou feel like you went out there and battled, but they got a couple of lucky bounces and got opportunistic at times in front of the net, and we didnâ€™t do the same.â€
Not at all indicative of a team getting off to its best start in school history, the Mavericks looked flat all the way around in Friday nightâ€™s opening frame. Ferris State didnâ€™t necessarily fly out of the blocks, either, but the Bulldogs would score the opening goal of the game at 12:31 on a play that epitomized just how largely uninspiring the period was.
Picking up the rebound on a long shot from the slot, Bulldog winger Justin Lewandowskiâ€™s centering pass from behind the UNO net hit Lewickiâ€™s skate before doing the same thing to Maverick goaltender Jeremie Dupont and entering the net for a 1-0 Bulldog lead.
In truth, only cruel fate had kept the Bulldogs from already going ahead prior to Lewickiâ€™s sixth goal of the season, as only minutes earlier did the frame of Dupontâ€™s net spare itâ€™s minder some embarrassment.
A slow, unassuming shot that came off of a Bulldog face-off win in the UNO zone looked to have taken the junior goaltender by surprise, and had it not bounced off of the near post, the Bulldogs would have likely gone back to their dressing room with twice the lead that the scoreboard indicated.
A galvanized Maverick side in the second period looked to turn the Bulldogsâ€™ lead on its head, and power-play goals from Tomas Klempa and Von Bokern coming 51 seconds apart looked to have thrown all of the momentum in their direction.
However, Hennigâ€™s equalizer for FSU at 16:41 of the period off a picture-perfect centering pass from Scot Wietecha brought the Mavericks falling back earthward before Embach converted on a great individual effort at 8:07 of the third period, shaking off a UNO defender before roofing a shot over Dupontâ€™s right shoulder and into the net for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
â€œThe kid made a great play going to the net. You donâ€™t want that guy to get that look at that time — he shouldnâ€™t get that close of a look,â€ UNO head coach Mike Kemp said about the play that sunk his Mavericksâ€™ record on the season to 6-2-1 and 2-2-1-1 in the CCHA.
â€œWe got beat out of the corner, one of our players went down, and I think that created the lane for (Embach) to make the move to the net, and he made a good move and beat Jeremie.â€
Speaking about the game as a whole, Kemp made no excuses, seeming to imply that Ferris State were the better team on the night.
â€œI think you look at their team, and we know theyâ€™re going to be playing a really very difficult, challenging style of play,â€ he said. â€œThey play very good, solid defense, they donâ€™t give you a lot of room, their defensemen are good and strong — we didnâ€™t get a lot of great looks at the net tonight — and they did a good job of shutting up stuff down low.
â€œThey did it last week down at Miami, and theyâ€™ve done it two weeks in a row now on the road. It just speaks for what the league is going to be like this year: Itâ€™s going to be a dogfight every night, and weâ€™re all in the mix here.â€
Daniels seemed to agree with his opposite numberâ€™s assessment of the Bulldogsâ€™ previous two outings, but counted his blessings where Friday night was concerned.
â€œI thought we played with a lot more jump last week and played better hockey overall than we did tonight,â€ he said. â€œI think we were fortunate tonight. Without (our) goaltending, we would have lost.â€
The two teams will meet once again on Saturday night at 7:05 CST for the second of their four scheduled meetings this season.