Wide open space with the puck on Josh Archibald's stick is an exciting situation.
It was the game-winning combination in an upset special Friday night.
With the teams skating 4-on-4, Archibald took a pass from Brock Montpetit at center ice and blew past defenseman Brennan Serville on a breakaway. Then he crossed in front of Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort and beat him high to the glove side for the go-ahead goal to lift UNO to a 3-2 win over the second-ranked Wolverines in front of 8,287 at CenturyLink Center.
“Brock made a great outlet pass to me,” Archibald said. “I chipped it past the defenseman, turned my wheels on and I was gone. I like my speed, and when I get chances I try not to screw things up.”
UNO coach Dean Blais likes Archibald's speed, too.
“You see his speed and (see him) making plays at high speed,” Blais said. “His acceleration is probably the best in college hockey. He's not very big, but his first two steps … he's gone.”
Archibald's ninth goal of the season came with 14:17 left and capped a comeback from a 2-1 deficit after Michigan (6-2-1) had scored two second-period power-play goals.
“It was tough because there's a reason they're No. 2 in the country,” forward Aaron Pearce said. “That said, we know what we have in our locker room, how much passion and drive we have. We wanted to get out and play our style, not change too much.”
Pearce tied it 2-2 on his first goal in 33 career games, as the sophomore connected on a one-timer from the slot on a setup from behind the goal line by freshman Justin Parizek with 17:02 left.
“We've been buzzing a little bit, playing well as of late,” Pearce said of his three P's line, which includes James Polk. “We knew we were going to get one — it was just a matter of time.”
Ryan Massa won a series opener for the third straight weekend, turning aside 26 shots — including Tyler Motte on a breakaway on the shift following Archibald's go-ahead goal.
“That's a save I have to make, regardless,” Massa said. “Guys were hustling back — no one gave up on the play, so that forced him to make a shot. I was fortunate to get a pad down, and nothing happened.”
Massa also stopped Alex Guptill after a giveaway in front a minute later.
And, with the Wolverines skating with an extra attacker and a scramble in front, a prone Massa reached out and smothered the puck with his glove with 5.3 seconds to go.
“All of a sudden I looked and the puck was sitting there in the middle of the crease within arm's reach,” Massa said.
Protecting the lead, UNO players sacrificed their bodies to stop shots before they even got to Massa — nine of the Mavs' 22 blocks came in the third period.
“Johnnie Searfoss has a great (scoring) chance, misses, comes back in the D zone and blocks a shot,” Blais said. “Jake Guentzel blocks a shot. Zahn Raubenheimer. Nick Seeler. There were like five blocked shots in the last five minutes, when the game was on the line.”
Brian O'Rourke blocked seven shots, senior captain Michael Young had five.
“Guys selling out like that, nothing gets a goalie more charged up — pure selflessness on the ice,” Massa said.
UNO (6-5-0) is 4-1 in its last five games since a 2-4 start and is perhaps headed for a spot in the national rankings — another impressive showing in Saturday's rematch would seal it.
“It shows everybody what kind of hockey team we are and how much damage we can actually do when we're playing our game,” Archibald said.
The Mavs broke through in a scoreless game just past the halfway point of the second period, just as a 5-on-3 power play was about to expire. Dominic Zombo deflected Young's shot from the slot past Nagelvoort.
But UNO's penalty-kill problems came back in full force on back-to-back short-handed situations later in the period. Luke Moffatt took a pass from JT Compher and scored his fifth goal of the season, beating Massa from the slot at 15:45. Roles were reversed 3:03 later on a man-advantage, as Moffatt hit the post from the slot and Compher scored from the left circle on the rebound.
Then the Mavs rallied.
“I thought we were ready to play (the third period), and that wasn't the case,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We give up a tying goal and had (bad) defensive zone coverage, and then the winning goal … maybe the leading scorer in the country walks in on our goalie and then we couldn't get (the lead) back. I thought our team responded and played hard but couldn't get the all-important tying goal.”