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Western Michigan freshman forward Wade Allison hadn’t scored since Feb. 4 against Arizona State.
That changed Saturday night.
The 2016 Philadelphia Flyers draft pick took advantage of a coverage miscue by visiting Omaha, crossed the blue line at the high slot, toe dragged and buried a five-hole shot past Mavericks goaltender Evan Weninger for the game-winner just 52 seconds into the third period of the Broncos’ 5-2 win to force a third and deciding game in an NCHC quarterfinal series in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“It was definitely a big goal; it’s been a while since I scored,” said Allison. “I think I’ve been worrying about it too much, which is why it took me so long. But it was definitely great to get that; it definitely helped out.”
Better yet, Allison’s line accounted for four goals and 10 points in the hosts’ victory as Allison and linemate Colt Conrad finished plus-4 and linemate Hugh McGing finished plus-3.
“They’ve got offensive ability; when they use short shift management, play with pace and tempo, they can be very dangerous,” said Broncos coach Andy Murray. “Certainly, some big goals from them and it’s something we’re going to need tomorrow night as well.”
The Mavericks jumped to a 1-0 lead early on a first-period goal by junior forward Tyler Vesel on assists by Justin Parizek and Mason Morelli just 48 seconds into the contest. Parizek’s hustle earned Omaha the tally as he skated past two Broncos to negate an icing whistle and found Vesel unchecked at the goal mouth, where Vesel promptly chipped it over the glove of Broncos netminder Ben Blacker.
“We had a lot of opportunities in [Western’s] end,” said Mavericks coach Dean Blais. “[Blacker] had a good view of most pucks. We didn’t have the guys at the front of the net that we should have.”
Western Michigan responded with a tying goal from Conrad at 7:56 on assists from Allison and McGing. Allison skated the puck away from a fray at the net and into the corner, where he found Conrad waiting unchecked at the right inside hashes for an opposite-post strike. McGing later put the Broncos ahead, 2-1, at 10:49 on a two-on-rush and feed from Conrad.
Murray had called timeout at 10:29 to get the Conrad line on the ice, but had plenty of praise for his team’s overall effort.
“We used all four units tonight,” Murray said. “In order for us to win this series, it means three games back-to-back, and we had to use all of our personnel.”
Hobey Baker nominee Austin Ortega knotted things right back up 2-2 just 13 seconds into the second period as he slinked away from the opening faceoff and stuffed his 20th goal of the season on assists from junior David Pope and sophomore Frederik Olofsson. The score would remain that way through 40 minutes, as both Blacker and Weninger combined for great saves, including a point-blank, short-handed stop by Weninger against the Broncos’ Lawton Courtnall at 13:48.
“I thought the third goal by Allison was the game-changer,” said Blais. “We did some of the things we wanted to … but, give them credit. They did a good job of getting the matchups they wanted. Allison and Conrad were plus-4. They’ve got the advantage of the last change, so, I think that was huge.”
Following Allison’s difference-making goal, McGing scored again at 12:21 of the third on assists from Conrad and Scott Moldenhauer and then Michael Rebry scored at 13:11 from Conrad and Luke Bafia to add some insurance late for the No. 7 Broncos, looking to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012.
“Bottom line, is it was a business-like approach tonight,” said Murray. “We’re not celebrating anything tonight. We’ve got business to take care of tomorrow.”
History will be standing directly in the Mavericks’ way of advancing to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, as Omaha has not won a road playoff series since 2000 and has not appeared in a conference semifinal tournament since 2001, dating back to the days of the CCHA.
“I think our transition game’s pretty good from defense to offense,” said Blais. “That’s where it starts.”
The two teams will meet once more on Sunday in the deciding game with a 7:05 p.m. EDT puck drop.
No. 1 Denver 4, Colorado College 0
Troy Terry and Logan O’Connor each scored twice and Tyson McLellan had a two-point night as the host Pioneers swept the visiting Colorado College Tigers, 4-0. Evan Cowley made 17 saves and Tariq Hammond finished plus-3 for the Pioneers, who advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff with the victory.
No. 14 North Dakota 6, No. 20 St. Cloud State 5 (OT)
Trevor Olson’s third game-winner in four games at 7:38 of overtime gave the Fighting Hawks a 6-5 win and a sweep of visiting St. Cloud State on Saturday at Ralph Englestad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Regulation surely wasn’t enough for these two, who each scored five times in the first 60 minutes. Christian Wolanin bombed home a tying, top-shelf goal at 15:58 of the third for the Fighting Hawks that erased a deficit created by two unassisted St. Cloud goals by Jon Lizotte and Nick Poehling at 11:30 and 13:16, respectively. Brock Boeser’s 15th goal and Austin Poganski’s 11th goal helped the hosts establish a 3-2 lead after two, but Lizotte tied it at three at 7:11 of the third. With the win, North Dakota advances to its fourth consecutive NCHC Frozen Faceoff.
No. 3 Minnesota Duluth 5, Miami 3
Alex Iafallo’s 17th goal of the year at 15:37 of the third broke a 3-3 tie and held up as the game-winner in the Bulldogs’ series-clinching 5-3 win over visiting Miami. The victory sends Duluth to its fourth consecutive NCHC Frozen Faceoff. Anthony Louis scored his 14th of the year at 3:17 of the third to give the RedHawks a 3-2 lead, but Jared Thomas was able to eventually tie it, 3-3, for Duluth at 13:25 and Dominic Toninato ensured it with an empty-netter at 18:55. Chase Munroe made 31 saves for Miami in the loss as the Bulldogs’ Hunter Miska made 21 saves in the winning effort.