Mavericks suffer 'disappointing' season-ending loss to UND
Fighting Hawks score trio of third-period goals and leave Mavericks searching for elusive first trip to St. Paul
OMAHA, Neb. – The start looked promising for Omaha Sunday night. A massive two-minute, 5-on-3 penalty kill followed by a Jimmy Glynn goal. And an electric Baxter Arena crowd looking to cheer the home side to a series-clinching win.
In the end, a 5-2 loss to North Dakota, ending Omaha’s season at 19-15-3.
“I’m proud of (the guys),” Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet said after the game. “They’ve faced adversity all season long and found a way to have a great regular season. Just wish we could’ve found a way to get to (St. Paul).”
Jimmy got Baxter LOUD!🚨#OmahaHKY pic.twitter.com/hu5CpMy8VQ— Omaha Hockey (@OmahaHKY) March 12, 2023
That trip to St. Paul remains elusive for the Mavericks as North Dakota became the third team to punch its ticket to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Sunday night.
St. Cloud State rounded out the four-team field shortly thereafter with a 3-1 win over UMD.
Omaha remains the lone NCHC program yet to appear in the event and the Mavericks fall to 3-17 all-time in the NCHC playoffs. Their last playoff series win came in 2010 — a sweep over Bowling Green — and the Mavericks have not reached the conference semifinals since 2001 (CCHA).
However, they looked poised for a breakthrough this weekend. Omaha earned home ice for the first time at Baxter Arena and used it to its advantage, taking game one against UND on Friday, 2-1.
The Mavericks held two separate leads in Sunday’s winner-take-all game three too.
“Everybody’s doing everything we possibly can to be successful,” Gabinet said. “When you do everything you can and it doesn’t happen, you’re at peace, but it does hurt. Because everyone wants it so bad. You just feel for the guys.”
Despite the result, Gabinet praised his group's “unbelievable effort” multiple times during his postgame press conference.
That effort was on display throughout the night as the Mavericks constantly blocked shots and finished 7-for-8 on the penalty kill.
Sunday’s contest featured 14 combined penalties, including eight in the second period alone.
“It’s ridiculous,” Gabinet said. “Fourteen penalties in an elimination game? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. I don’t get it.”
At the same time, the Mavericks weathered the storm. And they held a 2-1 lead until Dylan James’ short-handed goal with 29 seconds left in the second period.
James’ goal was the first of four unanswered by those in kelly green and black as Griffin Ness, Tyler Kleven and Gavin Hain scored within a 1:42 stretch late in the third period.
And then Hain added one more for good measure 17 seconds later. #UNDproud | #LGH pic.twitter.com/7gYhTax87a— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) March 13, 2023
The Mavericks didn’t do themselves many favors in the third either as Omaha fired just three shots at UND goaltender Drew DeRidder, who impressed throughout the weekend.
UND won the overall shot battle 36-14 and 14-3 in the final frame. Three of those 14 shots found the back of the Omaha net.
“I think it was just a weird game for an elimination game and so all over the map,” Gabinet said. “It’s disappointing.”
A special season comes to an end💔#OmahaHKY pic.twitter.com/nPd8KgRwss— Omaha Hockey (@OmahaHKY) March 13, 2023
In the bigger picture, Sunday’s loss marks a disappointing end to an impressive season for Gabinet’s program.
The Mavericks, who were picked seventh in the NCHC Preseason Poll, surpassed expectations throughout the year on many fronts. Omaha finished third in the standings and especially came on strong in the second half.
They also overcame a slew of injuries and the loss of assistant coach Paul Jerrard along the way.
Omaha climbed as high as second in the NCHC standings and the Mavericks were firmly in the Penrose picture down the stretch run.
However, that elusive trip to St. Paul will have to wait another year.
“It’s been pretty awesome to watch just how much individually and collectively we’ve gotten better throughout the year and how much growth took place,” Gabinet said. “It’s not easy to do in this conference what we did.”
UND 5, No. 17 OMAHA 2
North Dakota 0-2-3 – 5
Omaha 1-1-0 – 2
Omaha: Jimmy Glynn (Davis Pennington, Cameron Berg), 14:14
UND: Jake Schmaltz (Gavin Hain), 2:36, PP
Omaha: Cameron Berg (Kirby Proctor, Nolan Krenzen), 12:04
UND: Dylan James (Judd Caulfield), 19:31, SH
UND: Griffin Ness (Ryan Sidorski, Carson Albrecht), 14:46
UND: Tyler Kleven, 16:11
UND: Gavin Hain (Judd Caulfield), 16:28
Saves — Drew DeRidder, UND, 12; Simon Latkoczy, Omaha, 31
Power plays — UND 1-8, Omaha 0-6. Penalties – UND 6-12, Omaha 8-16
Attendance — 5,571