After hundreds of games, thousands maybe, Dominic Zombo did something Saturday that he’d never done before.
He got a hat trick.
“I’ve had plenty of two-goal games, but I could never find a way to get that third one,” he said.
Zombo’s three goals were pivotal in UNO’s 8-6 victory over St. Cloud State, a win that kept the Mavericks in contention in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Zombo scored twice in UNO’s three-goal second period, in which it turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead. after St. Cloud State tied the game and the Mavs went back ahead on a Zahn Raubenheimer goal in the third period, Zombo scored what turned out to be the game-winner.
The hat trick was UNO’s second of the season, and came two games after Josh Archibald scored three goals in a win against Miami (Ohio). It negated a hat trick by St. Cloud State’s Kalle Kossila. And it was the first hat trick against the Huskies in more than two seasons.
Getting the third goal wasn’t his focus, Zombo said.
“In a tight game, it’s more just do your job and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “It’s sort of in the back of your mind — especially when you’ve never done it before.”
In a game UNO realistically needed to win to keep its NCHC title hopes alive, the Mavs jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead but had squandered it before the first period had ended. The Mavs tied it 3-3 on a goal by Nick Seeler, then went ahead on Zombo’s first goal.
Jake Guentzel sent a rolling puck into the slot, and a crashing Zombo fired it high to beat goalie Ryan Faragher.
“I knew I had to go upstairs,” Zombo said. “I’ve had trouble lately — I seem to put them right in the goalie’s pads. A lot of goalies are good and (on) jams in front of the net they’re going to be down. You’ve just got to find a way to get the puck over the top of them.”
St. Cloud State tied it 4-4, but UNO went back in front on Zombo’s second goal. Stationed in the slot roughly even with the left post, Zombo tipped a laser that Guentzel had fired toward the crease from the left-wing boards. Backup goalie Charlie Lindgren couldn’t react to the redirected puck.
“To be honest, I didn’t know it went in until people were celebrating,” Zombo said. “I wanted to get a stick on the puck, and I knew I got a stick on the puck. For me most of the time things hit the glass. But that one found its way to the net.”
After the Mavs took the lead early in the third period, Zombo’s power-play goal, again set up by Guentzel from behind the net, made it 7-5 with just under 10 minutes left.
Both Guentzel and Archibald had three assists. All three of Guentzel’s assists, and two of Archibald’s, came on Zombo’s goals.
“Jake and Arch did a really good job of getting me the puck, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Zombo said of his linemates.
Archibald and Zombo are almost always on the same line, with Guentzel and Ryan Walters often trading off as the left wing on the Mavs’ most productive line.
“I think we work well together,” Archibald said. “We move the puck well, we get the puck in deep and we cycle. Zombo got three goals in front of the net. We found him, and he put the puck in the net.”
Walters was the left wing Friday’s series opener, a 5-3 loss, before Guentzel played there Saturday.
“We’ve been mixing it up throughout the year,” Zombo said. “Every once in awhile it’s Walt, and once in awhile it’s Gentz.
“Walt and Gentz are both really good players, so you’re not too concerned about it going in. We found some good chemistry (Saturday). It’s not that it doesn’t matter, but they’re both really good and you can’t necessarily choose one over the other.”
Zombo’s goal outburst gives him 12 for the season, tied for fourth in the NCHC (with St. Cloud State’s Kossila and Nic Dowd). Archibald leads the league with 18.
“Walt is a good shooter, and he needs to shoot more,” Zombo said. “Gentz looks to pass maybe a little more. (Saturday) he found me a lot.”
Zombo also had a goal Friday for a four-goal weekend, and he has two assists in a three-game point streak. He has 20 points on the season, including his eight assists.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound junior center from Ballwin, Mo., one of the Mavs’ assistant captains, has already matched the career-high goal total he posted last season, when he also had 23 assists. As a freshman, he managed just two goals and one assist in 32 games.
“It’s definitely harder than it was last year,” Zombo said. “I’m not surprising anybody this year. I’m not surprising myself, for that matter.
“But I can’t get caught up in what I did last year, how many points I scored. I just have to play my game. If they come, they come. I just have to play good hockey, from the defensive zone out.”
That likely applies to the entire team as it heads to North Dakota for another key series this weekend. UNO, North Dakota and Denver are all tied for second in the NCHC with 24 points, two behind St. Cloud State. Minnesota-Duluth is fifth with 23 points. All NCHC teams have 10 regular-season league games left.
“We’re going into a hostile environment, especially for our freshmen who haven’t played up there,” Zombo said. “That arena is a shrine to hockey. It’s a great place to play. They’re a hot team. But I feel like we’re playing well right now, too, and we’d like to do some damage.”