OMAHA, Neb. — Austin Ortega scored with 33 seconds remaining in overtime to push No. 5 Nebraska-Omaha past No. 1 North Dakota 3-2 on Friday night at CenturyLink Center.
The goal, Ortega’s nation-leading ninth game winner, came during a rare 5-on-3 power play in the extra frame. Ian Brady slid the puck from the left wing across the crease to Ortega, who redirected it past UND goaltender Zane McIntyre for his team-leading 15th goal of the year.
It capped off a wild celebration among most of the season-high crowd of 11,168 that was peppered with North Dakota fans who had made the trip down from Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The Mavericks improved to 16-6-3 overall and 10-4-1-1 in the NCHC, lengthening their lead against second-place North Dakota to four points. UND, which saw a five-game winning streak come to an end in the loss, is now 18-6-2 overall and 9-5-1-0 in conference play.
The Mavericks are now 2-0-3 in overtime this year. The two teams finish the series on Saturday.
Ortega’s goal capped a wild final minutes of play during which both teams victimized themselves with penalties.
Leading 2-0, the Mavericks lost defenseman Joel Messner late in the second period when he was called for boarding UND’s Brendan O’Donnell. UND did not score on the ensuing five-minute power play that carried into the third period but just after the penalty had expired, another penalty was called against the Mavericks. Before they could stop play, UND’s Luke Johnson scored at 3:23 of the period to make it 2-1.
Then with Brian Cooper off for a tripping penalty at 17:30 and McIntyre pulled for yet another attacker, Drake Caggiula poked home a rebound to tie the game at 19:12.
North Dakota got into trouble in overtime when Colten St. Clair picked up a roughing penalty at 2:26, and Mark MacMillan was whistled for a cross checking minor just 37 seconds later. Those penalties set the stage for Ortega, who has been UNO’s big moment player all season.
The Mavericks grabbed the first lead of the game late in the first period. Tyler Vesel came down the right wing, cut around several UND defenders before throwing a backhander past McIntyre. The goal, at 18:19 of the period, was Vesel’s sixth of the year.
The Mavericks stretched their lead early in the second. Tanner Lane’s pass sent Avery Peterson down the left wing. The puck was poke-checked off his stick by defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, but he recollected the puck and zipped a shot that broke off McIntyre and fluttered into the net for his 10th goal of the year.
Ryan Massa made 33 saves to improve to 11-3-3, tying his career record for wins in a season. McIntyre dropped to 18-6-2, stopping 28 in the loss.
The Mavericks have now beaten the last three No. 1 teams they have played. Their latest came against Minnesota Duluth in January of 2012.