BEMIDJI, Minn. — Matt White scored two goals Friday night as UNO beat nemesis Bemidji State 5-3 in the opener of a WCHA series.
The Mavericks, who finished it off with Johnnie Searfoss' empty-net goal with six seconds left, had been 1-7-4 against the 10th-place Beavers in the past three seasons.
“The guys really played a good game,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “They got a lucky break to make it 4-3, but we played good defensive hockey to preserve the win. We played a great road game, just good, safe hockey.”
Nos. 13 and 14 UNO (14-9-2, 10-5-2) inched up from being part of a three-way tie for third place in the WCHA into being part of a two-way tie for second.
St. Cloud State took over first with a 3-1 win against North Dakota that gives the Huskies 24 points, while Minnesota State-Mankato scored with 44 seconds left to beat top-ranked Minnesota 2-1 and slide the Gophers down into a tie for second with UNO at 22 points.
Minnesota State is fourth with 21 points, while idle Denver and North Dakota each have 20. Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth are tied for seventh with 19 points.
White later added an assist, and Hobey Baker Award candidate Ryan Walters had two assists for the Mavs, who matched last season's win total and play the Beavers again at 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
It was the first two-goal night of the season for White, a junior who has nine goals in his last 11 games and 14 for the season — one behind Walters and three others for the national lead.
“Matt White, once again, was the best player on the ice,” Blais said.
Walters extended his point streak to nine games (seven goals, seven assists) and has 23 assists and a national-best 38 points.
Searfoss and defenseman Jaycob Megna each had a goal and an assist. Megna, who earned a plus-4 rating, has scored three of his four career goals against Bemidji State.
“Jaycob Megna was the best defenseman on the ice, by far,” Blais said. “So good, so solid. He kept things simple. He missed a few outlet passes, but other than that he was excellent.”
Goalie John Faulkner fended off a late Bemidji State power play with several point-blank saves to improve to 12-4-2 after a 22-save performance.
“It was a really good defensive effort,” Blais said. “Every one of our defensemen did an outstanding job. They didn't get a lot of opportunities, and John Faulkner stopped most of the ones they had.”
In the third period, Bemidji State's Sam Rendle scored on a shot from the neutral zone that deflected off Walters' stick and carried over Faulkner's shoulder to cut the Beavers' deficit to 4-3 with 14:33 to go.
But the Mavs held on, despite a couple of good chances for the Beavers (5-13-5, 4-9-4).
The game started ominously for UNO in front of 3,536 at the Sanford Center as Bemidji State's Brady Wacker scored his first goal of the season — off a faceoff win by Aaron McLeod — 1:39 into the game.
“Gwidter (Brent Gwidt) tried to block it, and as he did John lost sight of it,” Blais said. “But the guys said, 'Hey, it's only one, and it's still early.' ”
The Mavs tied it at 6:50 in similar fashion, with Searfoss winning a faceoff draw and Megna firing low past Andrew Walsh for his second goal of the season. Searfoss had missed the previous four games with a back injury, but made his presence felt with eight shots on goal.
UNO started taking control, with White deflecting in an Andrej Sustr shot from the point with 1:13 left in the first period. Then, 2:21 into the second period, sophomore James Polk scored his second career goal — both against Bemidji State — for a 3-1 lead. Polk's goal was set up by good work on the cycle by linemates Gwidt and Andrew Schmit.
But the Mavs gave up a quick goal 40 seconds later, as UNO antagonist Jordan George scored his eighth of the season.
White got his second goal of the night, the eventual game-winner, at 9:21 of the period on assists from Megna and Walters for a 4-2 lead.
“Just a rebound, with Whitey standing by the dot and he banged it in,” Blais said. “The goaltender didn't have a chance, but it was one where only a sniper like Whitey can drill it.”