Two minutes away from another WCHA point, UNO came up empty.
Senior Mikael Lickteig scored his second career goal on a shot from beyond the faceoff circle with 2:04 left in overtime Saturday night as Michigan Tech stunned 14th-ranked UNO 2-1 before a season-high 9,248 at the CenturyLink Center.
“Certainly disappointed with the loss, but not with the effort,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “I thought we played as well as, if not better, than last night.”
Lickteig, playing his 56th career game but just his fourth this season because of injury, took control of the puck just inside the blueline along the boards and fired a shot high over the glove of John Faulkner, who was screened by defenseman Andrej Sustr.
“I didn’t pick it up right away,” Faulkner said. “Broken play along the boards, a guy came in and used our D-man as a good screen. But timing-wise, you want that one back. This time of year, how crucial it is, you want that one back.”
In settling for a split, the Mavericks (16-10-2 overall, 12-6-2 WCHA) saw both their three-game winning streak and four-game unbeaten streak come to an end. The overtime goal cost them one point in the standings and the chance to solidify their hold on second place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
“That’s huge,” Blais said of the point lost. “If that goes tie game, good for us and it’s going to help us at the end of the year. Last year, one (more) point would’ve given us home ice.”
First-place St. Cloud State completed a weekend sweep of Bemidji State and extended its lead over UNO to three points, 29-26. Minnesota, Denver and North Dakota share third place with 24.
Top-ranked Minnesota was idle this weekend and has two games in hand. North Dakota comes to Omaha next weekend.
The top six teams in the standings get home ice for the first round of the playoffs.
After a shaky first period in Friday’s 4-3 UNO win, Michigan Tech looked the rest of the weekend more like a top-six team than the one that just took over 10th place.
“I’m really, really happy and proud of our players,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “We played a gritty, intense game against a very good hockey team on the road, and that’s what you have to do on the road: You have to take advantage of your scoring opportunities, and you have to get good goaltending, and you have to limit their players’ scoring chances.
“I thought we did most of those things tonight.”
The score was tied 1-1 through two periods, and the third period got off to a thrilling start as UNO defenseman Nick Seeler hit a post on a shot from the high slot, and then Faulkner denied New Jersey Devils draft pick Blake Pietila on a breakaway. And that was just in the first 48 seconds.
Tech goalie Pheonix Copley (5-9-1), who had 37 saves, denied Matt White after UNO’s high-scoring forward jumped on a loose puck six minutes into the period. Faulkner turned aside C.J. Eick’s attempt to stuff one into the goal from close range with 8:35 left in regulation.
David Johnstone, who scored Tech’s first goal going end-to-end in transition, hit a post with 4:30 left. UNO’s Aaron Pearce couldn’t jam one in from the crease with 2:25 to go.
But, after a nondescript overtime, Lickteig got one behind Faulkner (14-5-1), who had 26 saves. The fifth-year senior was denied in his first attempt to tie Dan Ellis’ school record of 53 career wins.
“He played really well, except for the goal that went in,” Blais said. “He’s got to make that save with two minutes to go, and he knows it. (But) you don’t want to blame him. There were mistakes made all over the ice. He makes one and it costs us the game.”
Michigan Tech (8-13-4, 5-11-4) kept the Mavs contained better by slowing them through the neutral zone. However, UNO had a 12-4 advantage in shots on goal in the first period.
But the Huskies broke through for the game’s first goal, Johnstone’s second of the weekend.
Josh Archibald’s all-out effort allowed UNO to tie it 1-1 with 2:26 left in the second period.
First the sophomore, listed at 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, checked Edmonton draft pick Jujhar Khaira, 6-3 and 195, off the puck along the boards at center ice. Archibald got control of the puck and broke in alone on Copley after a quick give-and-go with defenseman Tony Turgeon. Then Archibald beat Copley with a backhand to the short side for his 15th goal of the season.
“It’s disappointing after we worked so hard to try to win that game,” Archibald said. “Obviously, the bounce of the puck tonight, I guess it wasn’t for us to win. But we worked hard and we’re pretty happy with our game. We just came out on the wrong side of things.”
Michigan Tech (8-13-4, 5-11-4) ............... 0 1 0 1—2
UNO (16-10-1, 12-6-2) .................. 0 1 0 0—1
Second period: 1, MT, D.Johnstone 8, 1:18. 2, UNO, Archibald 15 (Turgeon), 17:34. Overtime: 3, MT, Lickteig 1 (J.Johnstone, Sweeney), 2:56.
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