Not everything went right at the Battles on Ice outdoor hockey doubleheader.
And that was before UNO finally took the ice for a Saturday night game that had been scheduled to start late Saturday afternoon.
North Dakota scored three goals in the first 10½ minutes and held on for a 5-2 victory over the Mavericks before 13,650 (paid) at TD Ameritrade Park.
“The ice conditions were a factor, no question,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “And I thought that if one team was lucky enough to jump out to a lead that it was going to be a significant difference in the game. Luckily for us, it was us.”
No. 7 North Dakota took over sole possession of second place in the WCHA, while Nos. 14 and 15 UNO dropped into a share of third place with Minnesota, just one point ahead of three teams tied for fifth.
The Mavs (16-12-2 overall, 12-8-2 WCHA), swept for the second time all season and for the first time at home, also saw their losing streak extended to a season-high three games. While a series against the WCHA's last-place team awaits, the series is also half a continent away at Alaska-Anchorage.
“You don't have a lot of chance to lick your wounds this time of year,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “You've got to build on the positives, correct what you can and move on.
“The one thing you can't correct is that if your team doesn't have heart and character, you'll never make a run at it. But I don't see that as a problem on our team. I see a lot of pride. They could have just turned it in and just went through the motions, but they didn't. They battled back, and it really could have turned.”
After trailing 4-0, UNO got goals from Josh Archibald and Dominic Zombo to make the final 10 minutes interesting.
Archibald scored with 12:21 left, ending a scoreless streak of just over five periods, by redirecting Michael Young's shot from the point for his 16th goal. The Mavs — on the power play already — were skating 6 on 4 after pulling Dayn Belfour.
And the Mavs got within 4-2 with 9:59 left as Zombo jammed away and scored on a second rebound.
“Down 3-0 against a team like North Dakota, it's tough to come back,” Blais said. “But when it's 4-2, I thought about pulling the goaltender again with six minutes to go and you never know — but it wasn't the right situation.”
With UNO pressing and taking chances, North Dakota's Danny Kristo finally scored the clincher on a 2-on-1 with 1:18 left to make it 5-2.
The start of the game was delayed 2½ hours because, on a sunny day, the direct sunlight led to extensive melting of the playing surface during the first game, between the Omaha Lancers and Lincoln Stars.
|Check out the interactive panoramic photo from Saturday's Battles on Ice opener. Were you at the historic event?|
There was also a delay of about 15 minutes after the first period when a coolant line under the ice was damaged during resurfacing. As usual in outdoor games, it became more difficult for players to control the puck as the game progressed.
UNO couldn't capitalize on the game's first power play and had it cut short by taking a penalty for too many men on the ice with 11 seconds left in the man advantage. It was the 11th time this season the Mavs have been hit with the two-minute bench minor.
North Dakota (16-8-6, 11-5-6) scored on the ensuing power play, as defenseman Jordan Schmaltz — a first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues — got it past UNO goalie John Faulkner with a slap shot from the high slot at 6:51.
Nick Mattson and Mitch MacMillan added goals in the next four minutes, spelling the end of the night for Faulkner, who allowed three goals on five shots.
Down 3-0, facing a team with skilled forwards, a hot goaltender in Zane Gothberg and six NHL draft picks making up its defenseman corps, UNO was in big trouble.
“There's not much you can do right away when you go down 3-0,” Archibald said. “But we kept our head in the game and tried to battle back.”
UND's Corban Knight scored on a deflected goal with 44 seconds left in the second period to make it 4-0.
By the time the Mavs got going in the third period, it was too late.
“North Dakota played a great road series over the weekend and didn't give us a whole lot of chance to cycle, which we do well, in the offensive zone, and limited us to very few quality chances,” Blais said. “And when we did get them, Gothberg was really good.”
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>> Video: Game highlights from Saturday's UNO-North Dakota outdoor hockey game:
>> Video: Thawing ice delays Battles on Ice:
>> 360-degrees: This virtual reality look at TD Ameritrade Park as Jim Cornelison sings the National Anthem before the University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey game against North Dakota during The Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice event was made by stitching several images together. To look around click your mouse anywhere in the image and drag it to the direction you wish to see. You can also use the arrow keys to move around. To zoom use the "control" and "shift" keys.
Note: QuickTime 7 software required