MINNEAPOLIS — No. 3 Minnesota gained some measure of revenge Saturday night with a 3-2 victory over UNO, but the Nos. 13 and 14 Mavericks can still take plenty of satisfaction home after earning a split in the two-game, WCHA road series.
UNO’s streak of seven straight wins, one short of the school record set 11 seasons ago, came to an end, but the Mavs are still in prime position in the WCHA heading into another road series against a nationally ranked opponent, St. Cloud State, next weekend.
The Mavs trailed 3-0, but crept within 3-2 on a short backhander by Johnnie Searfoss — on an assist by Ryan Walters — with 2:02 left. The Mavs converted with an extra attacker after pulling goalie John Faulkner.
“Obviously, to win last night and then to come back from a 3-0 deficit against one of the top teams in the country tonight, it shows that we’re for real, too,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “We showed a lot of character almost tying the game up.”
UNO had two more late chances, with both Brent Gwidt and Matt White putting shots on goal before a sold-out Mariucci Arena crowd of 10,103.
“Coming in to play a team like Minnesota, in their building, it was nice to get that win Friday,” said Walters, who assisted on both Mav goals. “Give them credit tonight, they came out flying and they were playing with some fire. But we mounted a good comeback and we definitely have something to build on.”
UNO is in fourth place in the WCHA with 11 points, but has played two fewer games than the top three teams and trails first-place Denver (7-2-1) by only four points.
Like Walters, White also had two assists. Walters extended his point streak to seven games (six goals, 11 assists).
Coming off Friday’s 3-2 UNO victory, Minnesota’s first home loss of the season, the Gophers and their 15 NHL draft picks came out blazing.
Minnesota (10-3-2 overall, 5-3-2 WCHA) scored quickly on an early power play, as Erik Haula delivered his seventh goal on a backhander — from the slot and through a screen — just 2:09 into the game.
“Last night they were pretty upset, from the coaches down to the players,” Blais said. “We knew we’d get their best game. And you can tell the guys what’s going to happen, but you’ve still got to be in the actual game, at the speed at which they play, to understand it.
“There’s not another team we see that will put that kind of speed on the ice — the only one who might is St. Cloud next weekend.”
The Mavs (9-4-1, 5-2-1) nearly tied it quickly, as defenseman Michael Young hit the post with a shot on the next shift. Not much later, Gwidt was denied on a breakaway.
When Blais called his timeout with 11:30 left in the first period, the Mavs had been outshot 10-3. The Gophers finished the opening period with a 16-8 advantage in shots on goal, but the goaltending of Faulkner — particularly on a short-handed breakaway by Haula — kept the Mavs within 1-0.
“He stood strong and made the saves we needed him to make when we left him out to dry,” Walters said. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have been in that game.”
Faulkner, 8-1-1, lost for the first time all season, but had 30 saves, one short of his season high.
Still, Minnesota made it 2-0 on an early second-period power play, as Nick Bjugstad — Florida’s first-round draft pick in 2010 — zipped a wrist shot past Faulkner from low in the left faceoff circle.
Then Tom Serratore made it 3-0 just 1:24 later, converting after a turnover in the UNO defensive zone.
UNO got back within two goals when Andrej Sustr took a drop pass from White just beyond the blue line and ripped a shot past Adam Wilcox to the short side from high in the right faceoff circle. The goal, which came with 2:12 left in the second period, was the fourth of the season for the junior defenseman, matching his career-high.
UNO nearly made it 3-2 late in the period, but an apparent goal by defenseman Tony Turgeon came after the whistle — Minnesota’s Jake Parenteau was down on the ice and apparently injured.
“That was a good goal,” Blais said. “But you can’t do anything about it. The referee thought he was hurt worse than he actually was.”
The Gophers carried play most of the night, with a 33-20 advantage in shots on goal. UNO, among the national leaders in both shots on goal and fewest shots against, had a season low in shots and has allowed more shots only once.
Minnesota converted on two of seven power plays and kept UNO scoreless in four tries with the man advantage. The Mavs had a season-high 12 penalties.
It was the fourth straight 3-2 game between the teams (Minnesota swept two games by that score last year). Three of UNO’s losses this season have come in 3-2 games, and the other was a 2-1 setback.
“We didn’t get a whole lot of bounces and we were undisciplined with a few of our penalties,” Blais said. “But we didn’t give up. We fought to the buzzer.”