OMAHA, Neb. — The true parity of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference promised in its creation was placed front and center this weekend as North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha skated to a series split.
North Dakota’s Brendan O’Donnell scored his tenth goal of the season in overtime to give UND the 4-3 win
“It wasn’t a relief, it was a focus,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol.
UND recognized the importance of this game by wearing its alternate black sweaters or business suits as the team refers to them for only the second time this season.
“It’s just a different mentality when you walk into the room and see them hanging in your stalls,” senior forward Mark MacMillan said. “It’s a collective feeling that it’s time to go.”
North Dakota started the scoring early as Mark MacMillan finished off a passing play just 37 seconds into the game to give UND an early 1-0 lead.
“It was obviously not the result we wanted on Friday night,” MacMillan said. “I thought we came out even better tonight and we earned a big three points.”
For MacMillan, it was his 14th goal of the season. UND is now 10-0-0 this season when MacMillan scores a goal.
Omaha did not waste much time in pulling back even, however, as Jake Guentzel slipped past the defense and fired a puck that found its way past Zane McIntyre to even the game up at 1-1.
MacMillan wasn’t finished however. Late in the first period and on the power play, MacMillan found a loose puck in front of the net and muscled the puck into the net to give UND the 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
After going 1-7 on the power play last night, including zero for the first six, it only took two opportunities to find the net tonight.
Following an offensive first period, the goaltenders stole the show in the second period as Massa and McIntyre both made big saves to keep the period scoreless.
Massa made 14 saves in the period, including a number of timely saves on the penalty kill to keep UND off the board.
“I thought we couldn’t build a lead in the second,” Hakstol said. “I thought Massa was really good, and gave them a chance to win the game.”
UND took control of the game in the second period after being outshot 11-8 in the first by outshooting the Mavericks 14-8 in the second to carry a 24-20 shot advantage into the third.
Four minutes even into the third, Omaha got the break it was pushing for as Jake Guentzel scored his ninth of the season and second of the night on a goal from a shallow-angle to knot the score at 2-2.
“Give Omaha credit for pushing back and tying the game a couple of times,” said Hakstol. “That just defines how the series went.”
Midway in the third, another UND senior stepped up as Stephane Pattyn was able to bat a loose puck over Massa off a faceoff to give UND its third lead of the game.
“That’s a play that your captain has to make,” Hakstol said of Pattyn’s goal. “It’s a hard-nosed play by a hard-nosed player. That’s the way we want to play night in and night out.”
At the time, it looked like Pattyn’s goal would carry UND to a series split, but a too many men penalty on UND late in the third tested the North Dakota penalty kill.
The test would prove as a failure as Brian Cooper snapped a seeing-eye shot through traffic to tie the game at 3-3 with only 3:44 left in the game.
Both teams would push at the end of regulation, but neither team would find the net as the game headed to overtime for the second consecutive evening.
There, it was another senior stepping up large as Brendan O’Donnell won the game for UND off a Gaarder pass to give UND the 4-3 win and the series split.
“I had a pretty good idea where I wanted to go with it,” O’Donnell said on his goal. “I had a picture of where I wanted to put it and luckily enough it went into the net.”
UND outshot Omaha 42-34 with Zane McIntyre making 31 saves in the win for UND. Senior goaltender Ryan Massa made 38 saves in the loss.