A penalty-free game is a hockey rarity.
But at this point, maybe it’s UNO’s best hope.
No. 19 Cornell scored all four of its goals on the power play, following its three man-advantage scores from Friday, to complete a two-game sweep of the Mavericks with a 4-3 win Saturday night in front of 5,013 at CenturyLink Center.
The Big Red took an early two-goal lead, scoring 28 seconds apart less than eight minutes into the game, and the Mavericks cut the deficit to one three times but never tied it. Ryan Walters fired in a shot just after the final horn — Cornell took exception to the late delivery, and the teams tussled briefly before the situation defused.
“Winning in overtime or shootout, that’s what I kind of had planned in my dream through the third period,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “When it got to 4-3, I think the whole team believed we were going to do it. We were one second away.”
The Mavs played without goalie Ryan Massa for the final 2:25 and generated some scoring chances, first skating 6-on-4 on a power play for a little more than a minute and then 6-on-5 and finishing with a scramble around the net.
“Yeah, it was a second late, but there’s 60 minutes of hockey,” said forward Dominic Zombo, whose goal cut UNO’s deficit to 3-2 in the second period. “We had 60 minutes to score another goal. It’s tough. But we build on it.”
Now, about that penalty kill.
UNO (2-4) has lost three straight games, surrendering 11 power-play goals.
“It’s got to be fixed,” Blais said. “Because this tape will go out to our opponents in the NCHC, and they’ll be working the same power play as Cornell worked tonight.”
Cornell (2-0) converted on 7 of 15 power plays for the weekend. UNO outscored the Big Red 4-2 when the teams were at even strength, including 2-0 Saturday.
“They had a great power play, but at the same time that can’t be our excuse to get scored on almost every power play,” said forward Johnnie Searfoss, whose goal with 5:11 left in regulation made it 4-3.
The Mavs have successfully killed off 56 percent of the power plays against them the past three games and are stopping opponents 66.7 percent of the time (30 of 45) while short-handed this season. Stretch the trend into the final eight games of last year, and UNO is stopping 61.3 percent of power plays (49 of 80) in 14 games.
“We want to be aggressive and not stand, but when you’re aggressive and just kind of moving ... you’re out of position,” Blais said. “We’ve got to move our feet and not allow them any time. It’ll come. You’ve got to give Cornell credit for taking advantage of our mistakes.”
Dustin Mowrey, Cole Bardreau, Christian Hilbrich and Joel Lowry scored for the Big Red — all but Hilbrich scored goals Friday. Mowrey’s goal Saturday came with Cornell skating 5-on-3 — the Mavs having given up a goal while two men down in four straight games.
John McCarron and Patrick McCarron — no relation — each had two assists Saturday and combined for seven assists in the series.
Andy Iles, making his 72nd consecutive start, stopped 37 of 40 shots.
“Give Andy Iles credit,” Blais said. “He’s an All-America goaltender and he was the difference in the game.”
Cornell’s goals against Massa were all relatively easy putaways — Hilbrich’s came on a rebound.
The Big Red, outshot 40-13 for the game, hadn’t put a shot on goal for nearly 20 minutes before Hilbrich made it 3-1 at 12:44 of the second period. Those two shots on goal were the only ones for Cornell during a stretch of roughly 36 minutes.
“We played some pretty good hockey,” Searfoss said. “But mental mistakes, penalties, they’re killing us right now. All we can do is learn from it.”
Brock Montpetit scored UNO’s first goal off a deflection early in the second period.
Walters had two assists — giving him six for the season. He also has three goals and has scored at least one point in every game this season.
Walters set up Zombo’s tip-in, power-play goal at 17:32 of the second period.
Searfoss scored his first goal from the slot after taking a backhand feed from behind the net from Jake Guentzel.
“Forty shots on net is enough to win most games,” Blais said. “(Cornell) sat back a little bit when they got it 2-0 after the first period. I felt better tonight down 2-0 than I did last night when it was 1-1, just the way we were competing and battling.
“We’ll win nine out of 10 games if we keep playing that way.”
Cornell (2-0-0)....................2 1 1—4
At UNO (2-4-0)...................0 2 1—3
First period: 1, C, Mowrey 2 (Weidner, P.McCarron), 7:04 (pp5on3). 2, C, Bardreau 2 (J.McCarron, Lowry), 7:32 (pp).
Second period: 3, UNO, Montpetit 3 (Young, Walters), 11:33. 4, C, Hilbrich 1 (P.McCarron, Gotovets), 12:44 (pp). 5, UNO, Zombo 3 (Walters, Brady).
Third period: 6, C, Lowry 2 (Ferlin, J.McCarron), 9:03 (pp). 7, UNO, Searfoss 1 (Guentzel, Raubenheimer), 14:49.
Shots on goal:
Cornell...............5 2 6—13
UNO..................7 16 17—40
Power plays: C 4-7, UNO 1-7.
Penalties-minutes: C 10-31, UNO 9-29.
Goalies: C, Iles 2-0-0 (40 shots, 37 saves), 60:00. UNO, Massa 0-2-0 (13 shots, 9 saves), 57:35.