Finally, UNO had a rare advantage in power-play opportunities in a WCHA game.
But, despite a third-period, power-play goal, the Mavericks still had to survive a late scare produced by two penalties before holding off Michigan Tech 4-3 Friday night in front of a season-high 8,023 at CenturyLink Center.
“Every game isn’t going to be pretty,” University of Nebraska at Omaha defenseman Andrej Sustr said. “You’re going to have games like this. We’re just happy with the two points and hopefully we’ll be better (Saturday).”
Dominic Zombo’s power-play goal with 8:41 left gave the 14th-ranked Mavs (16-9-2) a two-goal lead, but soon after things started getting uncomfortable.
UNO (12-5-2 WCHA), which took sole possession of second place in the league with 26 points since Minnesota had the night off, had a 3-1 power-play advantage after Zombo’s goal — it had been a league-worst minus-18 in power play-penalty kill differential in WCHA games.
But, with the Mavs on yet another power play, defenseman Michael Young was sent off for hitting after the whistle with 5:38 to go. And Tanner Kero scored a man-advantage goal for Tech to make it 4-3 with 4:01 left.
“Take an undisciplined penalty and that’s what happens — the puck ends up in the back of your net,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “There’s some justice there. We took one with four minutes to go (at Bemidji State) and they didn’t score on it — but (Tech) did tonight.”
The game finally ended with the Mavs killing off a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty — and since the Huskies pulled goalie Pheonix Copley, they had a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 28 seconds.
It’s the 10th time this season UNO has been whistled for too many on the ice. Opponents have made the mistake three times.
“World record for too many men on the ice — I blame myself, poor coaching,” said Blais, who reconsidered while he was laughing. “… I’m not taking total blame. I’ve got dead-headed players jumping on the ice. How can our overall grade-point average be a 3.3 when we can’t count to five?”
There were smiles all around, despite the shaky finish.
Zombo and Sustr each had a goal and an assist as the Mavs won their third straight and extended their unbeaten streak to four games.
Ryan Walters joined the 40-point club with his 16th goal, and Joe Krause and Alex Simonson each picked up his first career point with assists on Sustr’s goal that made it 3-1 in the second period.
John Faulkner made several terrific saves among his 26 as he improved to 14-4-2 and moved within one victory of tying Dan Ellis for the school’s career win record of 53.
“You take the two points and run,” Faulkner said. “We came out and played pretty well in the first period, but that’s hockey. Things can change pretty quickly, and they came hard the next two periods.”
UNO dominated the first period, overwhelming the Huskies with its forecheck and creating opportunities in transition with a clear advantage in speed. UNO’s 10-9 edge in shots on goal wasn’t indicative of the Mavs’ apparent superiority.
But Michigan Tech (7-13-4, 4-11-4) undid half the damage with 14.2 seconds left in the period, as David Johnstone banged in a rebound of Alex Petan’s shot into an open net.
Johnstone later returned the favor, as Petan tucked in the rebound of a Johnstone shot to cut the Huskies’ deficit to 3-2 with 18:08 left.
“I thought it was like two different games,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “There was the first period, where they obviously jumped us pretty good. They were ready to play and they play with pace and they play with speed and they’re strong, and obviously they got off to a good start. It took us a while to get our feet under us, but I think that first goal helped.”
Matt White — who had six shots on goal — hit a post less than a minute in, and the Mavs got on the board at 4:32 on a virtual 4-on-1. Zombo chased down the puck in the neutral zone, hit top speed, then put on the brakes just beyond the blue line and found Johnnie Searfoss trailing in the high slot.
Searfoss drove home his eighth goal, and UNO scored first for the first time in six games.
The Mavs made it 2-0 as Walters, the Hobey Baker Award candidate, extended his point streak to 11 games on a goal set up when defenseman Brian O’Rourke, who played right wing on a line with Walters and Josh Archibald, forced a turnover.
“We were all over them, flying,” Zombo said. “But they didn’t give up. They weathered the storm and it ended up being a pretty close hockey game.”
Michigan Tech (7-13-4, 4-11-4) ................ 1 0 2—3
UNO (16-9-1, 12-5-2) .................. 2 1 1—4
First period: 1, UNO, Searfoss 8 (Zombo), 4:32. 2, UNO, Walters 16 (O’Rourke), 13:43. 3, MT, D.Johnstone 7 (Khaira, Petan), 19:45.
Second period: 4, UNO, Sustr 7 (Simonson, Krause), 12:40.
Third period: 5, MT, Petan 8 (D.Johnstone), 1:52. 6, UNO, Zombo 9 (Sustr, Lane), 12:19 (pp). 7, MT, Kero 5 (Stebner), 15:59 (pp).
Shots on goal:
Michigan Tech ................. 9 5 15—29
UNO ................. 10 9 9—28
Power plays: MT 1-3, UNO 1-4.
Penalties-minutes: MT 4-8, UNO 3-6.
Goalies: MT, Copley 4-9-1 (28 shots-24 saves), 59:14. UNO, Faulkner, 14-4-2 (29-26), 59:56.
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