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Entering Friday’s game, Omaha was third in the nation in short-handed goals, with nine. Friday, No. 8 Western Michigan scored a third of that and tripled their own amount scored on the season.
“Three short-handed goals tells the story,” Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “How do you explain it in one game?”
The third one tied the game for the Broncos in the third period after losing a 4-1 lead built in the opening period. Minutes following, they scored again — the Broncos’ seventh goal of the night — and hung on to win 7-6.
The game-tying and game-winning scores came off the stick of Griffen Molino. The sophomore tallied a hat trick and combined with linemate Sheldon Dries for five of the team’s seven scores.
The Mavericks had only allowed two short-handed goals all year. Western Michigan coach Andy Murray knew that Omaha was a threat on the power play and saw his team take advantage of their aggression with an extra man.
“They’re so dangerous on the power play when they’re going for it in all of their power-play situations,” Murray said. “We found a way to get it behind them and [had] a couple of good plays and some great finishes.”
In the third, the special teams tides turned. Dries was called for roughing and Molino was whistled for goaltender interference, a five-minute major, which led to a five-on-three power play for Omaha as Lawton Courtnall was already in the box for charging.
Following a string of chances, Omaha won a draw in their offensive zone and Fredrik Olofsson converted a chance with the two-man advantage to give Omaha their first lead of the night to make it 6-5.
“We get a lead in the third period, usually it’s golden,” Blais said.
At the other bench, Murray sensed midway through the final period that the team needed a spark now if they were to regain the lead.
“I really thought with that TV timeout with about eight minutes to go in the hockey game, we were down a goal, we had to make a decision,” Murray said. “Do we want to leave right now and just leave eight minutes on the clock and give them the win? Or what do we have in us to take a step up and raise our level.”
Not long after, Molino scored two goals in the final six minutes and handed Omaha its fourth loss in the last five games.
“We’re finding a way to lose instead of finding a way to win,” Blais said.
Goaltending proved to be a concern again for the Mavericks, as Evan Weninger was pulled from the game at 12:54 in the first period after allowing four goals on seven shots. He was replaced by Alex Blankenburg, who allowed three and played the remainder of the game.
Blais likened the decision on who will start next in goal to “rolling the dice.”
“It’s an unsettling (thing) at this time of year to not have your goaltender do his job,” Blais said.
However, Blais said the result of the game was not the fault of the goaltending or the refereeing, but rather not finishing the job when the opportunity was there.
“The disappointing thing was, we played OK out in Denver, came back and played better in Duluth and got the tie, played better tonight than we did in the other three weeks and result was a loss. We’ve got to quit making excuses and win those tight games.”
For Murray, he wants to see his team manage the puck better to come away with another three points and climb higher in the NCHC standings.
“You get what you deserve and we found a way to be deserving at the end,” Murray said.
St. Cloud State 4, Miami 2
The Huskies scored three unanswered after Miami struck first. Kiefer Sherwood scored an extra-attacker power-play goal for the RedHawks with 32 seconds to go to make it a one-goal game, but a late empty-netter by Jimmy Schuldt sealed the game.
No. 2 Denver 2, Colorado College 1
The Pioneers scored just 1:17 into the game and Jarid Lukosevicius scored a power-play goal at 5:34 of the second and held the Tigers to just 15 shots, while Colorado College’s Alex Leclerc made 37 saves in the loss.