Bemidji State is back in town.
And up to its old tricks.
The Beavers, unbeaten in Omaha the previous two seasons, used their relentless forecheck, their frustrating trap and their lethal counterattack to bounce back from a 3-1 deficit to earn a 3-3 tie Friday night against the Mavericks.
“Typical Bemidji,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “They're going to work hard right up to the (final) buzzer.”
The Mavs had a 42-25 advantage in shots on goal, another common denominator in their tough-luck series with the Beavers. That included a 9-4 shots advantage in the third period and overtime.
But Bemidji State, picked to finish 11th in the WCHA after finishing ninth last season, is 6-1-4 in the past 11 meetings between the teams, including 4-0-3 in Omaha.
Despite the Beavers' hard work, UNO seemed to have control of the WCHA opener midway through the second period in front of 5,850 at CenturyLink Center.
“All you want to do is get points on the road, and we got a point on the road on a Friday night, and I couldn't be happier,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore, whose team became the 18th in collegiate history to record 1,000 wins.
“I just thought it was an extremely gutty game by our guys. We came back from two two-goal deficits, and the guys showed a ton of character and a ton of resiliency.”
The Mavs took a 2-0 lead early in the second period, and restored their two-goal margin 34 seconds after the Beavers cut their deficit to 2-1.
“It's definitely frustrating, especially when we were up 3-1,” said junior Johnnie Searfoss, whose second goal of the season gave UNO that lead with just more than half the game remaining. “We haven't beaten Bemidji at home since I've been here.”
Two critical defensive-zone turnovers led to two relatively easy goals — by Aaron McLeod, on a rebound, and Markus Gerbrandt, who deked his way around John Faulkner — in the span of 2:03 late in the second period to tie it.
“I don't know how many times our defensemen got on their backhands,” Blais said. “We don't really teach that, but it ended up that way and it cost us a couple of goals.”
A nifty goal by Josh Archibald got the scoring started. The sophomore forward took Dominic Zombo's faceoff win at the top of the circle, sidestepped an oncoming Beaver by going on one skate, then fired a wrist shot past Andrew Walsh to the near post 2:43 into the game.
“Zombo won it clean to me, right in the sweet spot,” Archibald said. “And Johnnie ran a little interference on the guy and got in front of the net at the perfect time.”
Archibald, Zombo and Searfoss skated together as a line for the first time this season and were the team's best group, all finishing with plus-2 ratings.
“Coach told us he wanted us to be the energy line,” Archibald said.
Another apparent UNO goal was disallowed four minutes later, when Brent Gwidt tapped in the rebound of an Aaron Pearce shot with a high stick.
The Mavs took a 2-0 second-period lead as freshman Nick Seeler set things up, spinning his way into the offensive zone and putting a shot on goal from the corner. Brock Montpetit got a piece of the rebound, setting it up in front for Matt White, who buried his third goal of the season.
Radoslav Illo cleaned up the rebound of a Sam Windle shot from the point, lifting it over a prone Faulkner at 9:03 to make it 2-1.
But the one-goal margin lasted 34 seconds, as Archibald dipped around a check and put a shot on goal. Three Mavs jammed at multiple rebounds before Searfoss got it past Walsh for the 3-1 lead.
“All three of us were just whacking at the puck,” Searfoss said. “It was just sitting there, and I got it first.”
But much like his predecessor, Dan Bakala, Walsh stopped enough shots (39) to leave the Mavs shaking their heads. Counting last weekend's series against Lake Superior State, Walsh has a .962 save percentage (102 of 106).
“He did what he had to do to tie the game,” Searfoss said. “We've got to find a way to beat these guys, regardless of who's in net.”
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