Entering the weekend, No. 19 Omaha had the most short-handed goals in the country and Miami was the best penalty-killing squad in the NCHC. On Saturday, it was the Mavericks specialty that made the difference, as a power-play goal followed by a short-handed score led to a 2-0 home win in Omaha.
Special teams was the story defensively too, as Omaha shutout the RedHawks and nullified their four power-play opportunities, including a 6-on-4 empty-net spree at the end of the game.
“I thought they had real good energy and won a lot of battles,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “Obviously [they] scored a power-play goal and short-handed goal, so we didn’t seem to find any kind of clean execution around their net and I thought [Evan] Weninger played well.”
The Omaha goalie made 30 saves for his third career shutout and second of the season. It was a bounce-back series for the netminder, who two weeks ago started the home opener that ended in a 9-1 North Dakota win.
“This weekend we knew we had to change a few things up,” Weninger said. “Personally, I just kind of came into it like a normal game and I think the team did too and we really played well this weekend.”
The short-handed goal came from Spinner, who stole the puck in the Omaha zone and skated undefended toward Ryan Larkin, where he was able to slip the puck between his skates. It was Omaha’s ninth short-hander on the season, the most in the country.
Spinner attributes the Mavericks’ attentiveness and speed when on the penalty kill to finding the net as often as they do.
“I think it’s our speed,” Spinner said. “I think we’re all around a fast team. I think speed on that really kills because usually when they go on the power play they’re lackadaisical, and if we’re hard, gritty and using our speed, it helps a lot.”
The win improves the Maverick’s home record to 5-7-2 and gives the team their first win at home following the lopsided North Dakota series.
“I think after the North Dakota series I’m just happy to see fans back in the building,” Spinner said “Last time we didn’t really help out [Weninger] here and tonight we played a lot harder, a lot different team as you guys can probably see.”
The RedHawks outshot the Mavericks and couldn’t execute on their power-play opportunities. Coming out with two points after last night’s tie and overtime goal, Miami pivots to a series with Western Michigan at home.
“We’re just going every day,” Blasi said. “You have to have a short memory and get ready to play the next opponent. In our league, you don’t dwell on what happened in the past or you’ll find yourself in big trouble.”
Omaha prepares for a slate in which they face Denver and Minnesota-Duluth, both on the road. It will be a stretch of games that will test their 8-1-2 road record.
“If we just kind of stay the same, the same thing is going to happen that happened at the end of last year,” Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “We might play our best and still lose games in the next 10, but right now we’re trending toward success.”
No. 13 Western Michigan 3, Colorado College 0
Aaron Hadley scored a short-handed goal midway through the second period to make it 3-0 and the Broncos held on to win and get the series sweep. Ben Blacker made 25 saves in the shutout effort.
No. 4 Minnesota Duluth 4, No. 8 North Dakota 0
Four different Bulldogs scored, including a short-handed goal by Dominic Toninato, in UMD’s 4-0 win and series sweep of the Fighting Hawks. It’s the first time North Dakota has been shut out at home since 2011.
No. 2 Denver 3, St. Cloud State 1
The Huskies struck first, but Denver scored three unanswered goals behind a 37-save effort from Tanner Jaillet to earn the series split.