OMAHA No one said it would be easy for the Michigan hockey team to take three out of four points from Nebraska-Omaha (4-3-1 CCHA, 7-4-1 overall) this weekend in the Civic Auditorium. The Mavericks had given up nine goals in six CCHA games prior to the Wolverines” arrival in Omaha, but upped their total to 16 after two games against the revitalized Michigan offense.
The Wolverines (4-3-2, 5-4-2) fell apart in the third period of both contests, squandering a 2-1 lead on Friday night and a 2-0 lead on Saturday night.
Saturday, Michigan jumped out to a quick lead with goals by two freshmen forwards Jason Ryznar and Eric Nystrom. But for the second straight night, the Wolverines couldn”t sustain their intensity to begin the third period and the Mavericks stampeded to a 2-2 tie with four minutes left to play.
“We have to go at them in the third period with the lead,” Nystrom said. “We sit back a little bit instead of playing our normal game. I think this weekend was a learning lesson, and we”ll be better from here on in.”
In their second overtime in as many nights, the Wolverines made sure Nebraska-Omaha didn”t have time to build off the momentum provided by its 8,314 fans.
Just 12 seconds into overtime, Ortmeyer chased down Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Greg Zanon, one of the top defenders in the CCHA, who controlled the puck behind the Mavericks” net. Ortmeyer”s strong forecheck freed the puck and he slid it in front of the net to Nystrom who made no mistake, sending the puck past goaltender Dan Ellis for the game-winner.
“Two weeks ago or three weeks ago, we probably couldn”t have made that comeback,” Berenson said. “We survived it. I don”t know if we were lucky, but you have to be lucky sometimes better than being good.”
Friday”s contest was eerily similar to Saturday”s near debacle.
After outplaying the Mavericks through two periods, Michigan came out flat in the final stanza, yielding three consecutive goals to give Nebraska-Omaha a 4-2 lead.
“There was about five minutes in there where we were really on our heels,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We were spectators. You can”t do that. That team nearly took us out of the game.”
As the clock rolled below three minutes to play, the Wolverines” hopes of victory looked to be crushed. But by virtue of two goals with goalie Josh Blackburn pulled from the net, Michigan sent the game to overtime with 37 seconds left in regulation with a goal from Omaha-native Jed Ortmeyer.
“It was the first time we were able to come back from being behind in the third period (this season),” the junior captain said. “It showed we have a lot of hunger, a lot of fight in us and we didn”t give up. It”s something that”s really big for this young team, and it”s a big step for us.”
The Wolverines outshot the Mavericks 47-21 on the evening, but were unable to capitalize in overtime as the game finished in a 4-4 stalemate.
“I thought we could have had two points or no points,” Berenson said. “Maybe a tie was poetic justice.”