The timing of the goal, the importance of the game and the fact that he had dreamed of playing North Dakota since he was 16. These are the factors that justify why, of the 80 goals Nebraska-Omaha’s Alex Hudson has scored since 2004-05 when he entered the USHL, Saturday night’s game winner ranks No. 1 in his mind.
It seems the Mavericks have proved themselves more and more as the early weeks of the college hockey season go by. UNO sent a threatening message to the WCHA when it swept Minnesota at Mariucci. Then the Mavericks went to Ann Arbor and beat then No. 3 Michigan, swept Minnesota State and took three points at St. Cloud State.
Some would consider a loss at home to No. 8 UND to be a letdown, but Friday night, the Sioux beat No. 4 UNO in a 6-5 shootout. The Mavericks were one second and a five-minute overtime period away from going winless against UND, but seven tenths of a second later, Hudson saved UNO’s weekend.
“There was 10 seconds on the clock and we were just trying to get one last shot on net,” Hudson said. “When I saw the puck get kicked to me and (UND goalie Aaron Dell) didn’t see it, I was shocked to see the open net and I just did my best put it home.”
Hudson swatted a loose puck into the net with less then one tick on the clock in the third period of a scoreless game as UNO clipped UND 1-0 in Omaha, improving the Mavericks’ record to 9-2-1.
“I’ve dreamed of playing North Dakota in the WCHA and to be able to score a big goal like that is like a dream come true,” Hudson, a Corona, Calif., native, said Tuesday morning. “To score a big goal that helps my team and my community is more than I can ask for.
“For me to get a chance like that so late in the game, I didn’t see it coming.”
It was the second time Hudson scored a game-winning goal this season. His goal with 1:36 left clinched a win at Minnesota in the Mavericks’ WCHA debut on Oct. 15. Hudson has been a cornerstone from the center position this season, scoring six goals and eight assists for 14 points, which is tied for second on the team.
Hudson is part of one of the deepest scoring offenses in the country. Seven Mavericks are double digits in points but none has more than 15. Seven UNO players have four goals so far but none has scored more than seven. And without one player that lights it up every game, the Mavericks have scored 50 goals this season (second most nationally in goals per game at 4.17).
But the UNO offense failed to bury the puck all game Saturday despite many missed opportunities, according to Hudson. As the clock ticked down in the third period, the closer the Sioux came to escaping Omaha with three or more points.
“There was definitely a sense of urgency,” Hudson said. “No team wants to be swept at home or going into a bye. We were trying our hardest to get the win and fortunately it worked out.”
Those who viewed Hudson’s game-winner on YouTube probably noticed an odd-looking object hurled onto the ice. It was a large fish, sort of. Hudson said it’s tradition for a one particular fan to throw an artificial fish onto the ice when UNO scores first in every game.
“It’s just a tradition we have at Nebraska-Omaha,” Hudson said. “It’s something we like to do to get the crowd into the game and it’s exciting for us as players.”