OMAHA, Neb.—Northern Michigan University Men's Ice Hockey (7-6, 5-3 WCHA) saw their comeback bid fall short, falling, 4-3, to the University of Nebraska Omaha (5-5-1, 1-3 NCHC) in the first contest of a two-game series Friday evening.
The Wildcats found themselves in an early deficit after allowing the first goal of the game 2:33 into the contest. A Mavericks score gave UNO the lead on just their second shot on goal. Omaha threatened again with a power-play opportunity less than two minutes later, but NMU continued their strong special teams play, fending off the Maverick's attack.
UNO again went into the power-play near the seven-minute mark, but the two teams would play four-on-four after an Omaha penalty at 8:21. With four seconds remaining in the four-on-four play, the Wildcats evened the game at one goal each courtesy of sophomore defender Philip Beaulieu's (Duluth, Minnesota) third goal of the year. Coming at the 8:53 mark of the first period, junior forward Adam Rockwood (Coquitlam, British Columbia) and freshman defender Adam Roeder (Ballwin, Missouri) each picked up an assist on the play. It was the first shot of the game for NMU.
Just over a minute into the second period, freshman forward Joseph Nardi (Edmonton, Alberta) put the Wildcats ahead with his third score of the season. Roeder picked up his second assist of the game and the season on the goal, while senior forward Robbie Payne (Gaylord, Michigan) earned his fourth assist and 16th point of the year.
The lead was short lived as UNO found their second goal at the 7:30 mark of the period. The Mavericks' unassisted goal was off a Wildcat defender's skate before making its way into net. Omaha found two more scores in the period to regain their lead and head into the final period with a 4-2 advantage.
Neither team managed a score through the first 16 minutes of action of the third period, with the Mavericks maintaining their 4-2 advantage. Finally, at the 15:51 mark of the period, the Wildcats found their third goal of the game on a score from senior forward Zach Diamantoni (Montgomery, New Jersey). The unassisted goal went off of a UNO defender before going into the net to pull NMU to within one.
A late power-play opportunity for NMU would give the Wildcats the on-ice advantage nearly the rest of the game. The Wildcats then chose to take a 6-on-4 skater advantage, pulling their goaltender with 1:44 remaining. Despite eight shots in the final 2:05 and a 14-2 shot advantage in the period, NMU was unable to find a second late score, giving Omaha the series opening win.
Between the pipes, sophomore goaltender Mathias Israelsson (Ytterby, Finland) fell to 1-2 on the season with the loss. Israelsson's 16 saves against 20 shots moved his season saves percentage to .898, while his goal against average now sits at 2.85.
Coming into the contest, the Mavericks owned the fourth-best power-play percentage in the country at 28.9%. The Wildcats continued their stretch of dominate special teams going 4-4 in the penalty kill. In the past seven contests, NMU has gone a combined 32 of 34 in the penalty kill, improving their penalty-kill percentage from 70% to 82.8% over that span.
NMU will seek their fifth-consecutive series split in Saturday's contest and sixth of the year. The last non-split for the Wildcats was a series sweep of Ferris State University to open conference play the second week of the season, October 13-14. The puck will drop for Saturday's contest at 8:07 p.m. EST.