Jaycob Megna's mad dash and the hockey sense of a 19-year-old freshman helped UNO bounce back from a rough season opener and an early deficit.
Megna, UNO's 6-foot-6 defenseman, went coast-to-coast to set up a game-tying goal at the end of the first period, and Jake Guentzel's second-period goal — the first of his career — turned out to be the game-winner Saturday night as the Mavericks earned a split with Bentley in a 4-2 win before 4,365 at CenturyLink Center.
“As hard as we worked the first period, I never thought we were in danger of them taking the lead — and when they did it's a momentum changer,” UNO coach Dean Blais said.
But Megna, an Anaheim Ducks draft pick who had a plus-3 rating in UNO's 6-4 loss Friday, got the momentum back.
With time winding down in the first period, Megna started from behind the Mavs' goal, blazed through the neutral zone along the left boards, avoided a check from Zach Marginsky at the blue line, and then fired an off-balance shot on goal from the left circle. Brock Montpetit slammed in the rebound as the first-period horn blared.
“Great individual work by Jaycob Megna to not give up on the play and by Brock to find that rebound and put it home,” said forward Josh Archibald, whose empty-net goal with 31 seconds left eventually clinched it. “That helped a lot. We got a lot of momentum going into the second period. It definitely got the team going.”
Archibald helped give the Mavs their first lead of the weekend early in the second period. With Bentley goalie Branden Komm on his stomach, Archibald calmly collected a rebound and slid it to linemate Dominic Zombo in front, setting up an easy goal 96 seconds in.
“That line stepped forward,” Blais said of the group that also includes Hobey Baker Award finalist Ryan Walters. “They were around the puck more, made plays and had chances. Last night they were kind of flat.”
UNO picked up two penalties in front of its net trying to stop scoring chances — first on a hook by Montpetit and then on a slash by Nick Seeler — and was forced to try to kill off a 5-on-3 power play for 1:42.
Fifty-two seconds later the game was tied, as Andrew Gladiuk scored from the right circle, going top shelf to the short side over Kirk Thompson's left shoulder.
But then Guentzel came through.
The third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins led a power-play rush, then shot between the legs of defenseman Zach Ledford and over Komm's glove-side shoulder to make it 3-2 with 13:05 left in the second period.
“He used the defenseman as a screen and then (top) shelfed it,” Blais said. “A lot of hockey sense right there.”
In addition to a two-point night from Archibald, the Mavs also got two assists from Walters and defenseman Michael Young. Thompson made 25 saves in his first career start.
Steve Weinstein assisted on both Bentley goals, giving him four assists for the weekend.
Three penalties in a span of 2:21 midway through the third period helped thwart any potential comeback bids from the Falcons.
“I was very pleased with our 60-minute effort from our guys,” Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said. “... I thought that we got caught with a couple too many penalties down the stretch, and it's pretty hard to score the tying goal with the time to make it a 3-3 game when you take four penalties in a row (including one late in the second period) and your (penalty kill) is on the ice — so I was a little disappointed with our discipline down the stretch.”
UNO was disappointed with its execution — though not its effort — in Friday's loss, the Mavs' first in a season opener since 2003-04 (UNO had been 8-0-1 in openers since).
“We didn't want to dwell on it,” Blais said. “The players felt bad. But I went in the dressing room and said it's too early in the season to get down and get upset with each other. They're competitors and they hate losing just as much as I do. ... They weren't happy with the way they played last night.”
Bentley once again jammed up the neutral zone, forcing UNO to play more of a dump-and-chase game.
“They probably looked at some things and saw we had some pretty fast guys, so they clogged things up pretty well,” Archibald said. “It was frustrating at times having to dump the puck and try to retrieve it. That's not really our style — we like to make plays, make passes. But we got through it.”
The Mavs also emerged with a solid measure of respect for an experienced Bentley team that was picked by coaches to finish ninth in the lightly regarded Atlantic Hockey Association.
“Bentley is a good hockey team,” Blais said. “They're better than we are in some phases of the game. ... They might win the Atlantic (Hockey) conference this year. I'm really impressed with them.”
Bentley (1-1-0) ............................ 1 1 0—2
At UNO (1-1-0) ............................ 1 2 1—4
First period: 1, B, Grieve 2 (Weinstein), 12:50. 2, UNO, Montpetit 1 (Megna, Young), 19:59.
Second period: 3, UNO, Zombo 1 (Archibald, Walters), 1:36. 4, B, Gladiuk 1 (Gensler, Weinstein), 4:28 (pp). 5, UNO, Guentzel 1 (Seeler), 6:55.
Third period: 6, UNO, Archibald 2 (Walters, Young), 19:29 (en).
Shots on goal:
Bentley ............................ 8 13 6 27
UNO ............................ 11 11 17 39
Power plays: BU 1-5, UNO 1-6.
Penalties-minutes: BU 7-14, UNO 6-12.
Goalies: BU, Komm 1-1-0 (38 shots, 35 saves), 59:11. UNO, Thompson 1-0-0 (27 shots, 25 saves), 60:00.