GRAND FORKS, ND– The start of the second half and back into conference play was a rocky one for the University of North Dakota, who lost to the University of Nebraska-Omaha 4-1. A crowd of 10,133– the smallest regular season in-conference game crowd at the Ralph Engelstad Arena since January 2004– saw the Fighting Hawks come out a bit slow and get out worked by the Mavericks.
While Omaha was last in the NCHC coming in, they got off to a jump early with solid chances, two ringing off the post. The speed of UND was able to crack the defense of Omaha, but couldn’t get much on Evan Weninger. A turning point of the period was a holding call against Christian Wolanin of UND, but added to it was jawing to the ref, which resulted in a 10-minute misconduct. During that PK, UND had two good chances, but couldn’t connect. Omaha’s solid first culminated with Fredrik Olofsson using two UND defenders as a screen to put home his fifth of the season. Late in the first frame, Shane Gersich broke away, which led to Grant Gallo pick-axing Gersich in the shoulder to warrant a penalty shot. Gersich made the most of it to pot his sixth of the season and tie the game.
“First period, we didn’t have the quality chances we could get,” said coach Brad Berry post-game. “One of your most offensive guys is in the penalty box and you’re down to five D, it starts there. Then you get down to a little frustration and getting down and trying to come back again.”
North Dakota took it to Omaha to start the second, but thanks to a power play in the middle of the frame, Omaha took advantage as Luke Nogard poked in a Zach Jordan centering attempt to sneak by Cam Johnson and give Omaha the lead. The goal was the first shot that Omaha registered in the period, which took them 8:20 to get. Omaha took a 3-1 lead after David Pope hammered home a Ryan Jones set-up pass, which went through a mass of humanity in front to beat Johnson.
The third saw UND not give as much jump as they needed, with their best chance coming from a Matt Kierstad breakaway that Weninger stopped blocker side. In the middle of the frame, Kierstand overskated a pass, which allowed Zach Jordan to break-in and go high-glove on Johnson to make it 4-1 Omaha, which was the final score. Weninger finished with a season-high 34 saves in the win.
“We will change the line-up, we will make changes in our lines,” mentioned Berry. “It’s one of those things where at this time of year, you’re hoping you can solidify some things, but I guess we have to keep moving forward and get some information on some things to see what will work.”
“We have to play more simple,” said defensemen Colton Poolman. We weren’t playing good defense. They outworked us. We had a couple good days of practice, felt like we were ready in the locker room, but it didn’t show up on the ice.”
UND will look for a split on Saturday, hoping to contain the fifth highest scoring team in the NCAA.