Barring injuries and or slumps, it was always inevitable that Nebraska-Omaha senior forward Dan Charleston would get the 11 points he needed to reach 100 for his Maverick career. Obviously, it would be ideal for him to reach his century in the friendly confines of Qwest Center Omaha, and that’s what he did on Saturday night, notching a goal and an assist in UNO’s 4-2 win over Ferris State.
Making up for what was an all-around poor performance in the previous night’s 3-2 loss to the Bulldogs, Charleston and his teammates overcame another lackluster 20 minutes to start the game before turning it on in the second and third periods, with Jeric Agosta putting the game away on a fabulous individual effort six and a half minutes into the final frame. Matt Ambroz found the empty net in the dying seconds to boost UNO’s record on the young season to 7-2-1 and 3-2-1-1 in the CCHA.
Ferris State (5-4-3, 4-2-2-0 CCHA) had looked primed to go out and extend their unbeaten streak to five, in the NCAA’s eyes, anyhow; last Friday’s tilt at Miami ended in a shootout ‘loss’ for the Bulldogs, and they got on the board with their first shot on goal.
Just over four minutes into the first period, the Bulldogs took advantage of an odd-man rush into the UNO zone when Justin Menke set up Cody Chupp in front of UNO goaltender Jerad Kaufmann’s net before the junior winger beat Kaufmann low to the keeper’s glove side.
The game continued to look like a copy of Friday night’s game, with UNO taking a 2-1 lead again on Saturday night on goals from Rich Purslow and Charleston before FSU winger Corey Couturier restored parity at 4:38 of the third period.
The game finally established an identity of its own in the third period, though, when Agosta slotted one past Bulldog goaltender Pat Nagle.
With Ferris State trying to break out of their own zone, Agosta latched onto the Bulldog puck-carrier standing 10 feet in front of his own net, stole the puck off of him and beat Nagle.
UNO head coach Mike Kemp spoke after the game about how big Agosta’s goal may turn out to be in terms of spurring the team on through the rest of the season.
“It could be huge,” he said. “We’re talking about the battle for points, and you’re seeing it with Michigan losing last night and all the different kinds of upsets that are occurring in the league.
“For us to get any points at this point in time, those are going to loom large when we get into the second half of the year, and it’s important for us, particularly at home, to get points while we can. The road’s not a very friendly place, and it’s going to be in the second half of the year, so we need to be making hay while we can.”
Agosta’s strike had come on what proved to be one of the biggest turnovers either team allowed this weekend, and it was that more than anything else from the two games that left Ferris State coach Bob Daniels feeling most disappointed.
“We made too many mistakes to win a hockey game tonight,” Daniels said. “I felt like we dodged a bit of a bullet last night because I didn’t think we played all that well, and then tonight I felt that bad penalties and turnovers caught up with us, and that’s disappointing.
“I thought we were sloppy both nights. We didn’t play well either night, and we got what we had coming to us tonight.”
In terms of sentimental value on the part of UNO supporters, though, it will be Charlestonâ€™s 99th and 100th career points that defined Saturday night’s game. Speaking after the game, he said that he knew it was most likely coming, but tried to never look so far ahead, and that the present and the team he has around with him are more important.
“You know it’s coming, but there’s no pressure involved; you just go out and play,” he said. “It’s a great honor, but it’s not just me, it’s the team. I can’t do it without them. There have been many guys who have been helped out through the years, so hat’s off to them, too.”
“It’s one of those things going into the year that we knew was inevitable,” Kemp said about the latest Maverick centurion, one of ten in school history. “He’s a very talented hockey player and an offensive threat. I was just so happy to get it at home and on Parents’ Weekend. How appropriate, what with all his family here, that he hits that milestone on a night like tonight, so it’s big.”
The two teams will meet again for two games in Big Rapids, Mich. in February. More immediately, though, UNO hosts Michigan State next weekend, while Ferris State will play two against Alaska at home.