Behind Massa’s 39 saves, Nebraska-Omaha defeats Minnesota-Duluth

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Dean Blais complimented Minnesota-Duluth on being opportunistic in the Bulldogs come-from-behind victory Friday. On Saturday, it was his Mavericks who executed their chances.

After falling behind early in the first period, Omaha rallied to get a pair of goals and carry on behind 39 saves from Ryan Massa for a 4-1 victory at home.

“We lost the game we should’ve won and probably won the game we shouldn’t have won,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said, quoting his assistant after the game.

The Bulldogs carried their late momentum from Friday into the start of Saturday’s matchup. UMD got several chances early and a quick goal at 4:40 when Kyle Osterberg scored on the Bulldogs’ third shot of the possession.

The Bulldogs also got the first power play of the game when Joel Messner was whistled for cross-checking, but like last night, the Mavericks perfect penalty killing continued.

As they did so Friday, UNO’s goals came in a pair.

The Mavericks attacked the net hard, which found Austin Ortega with puck behind the goal. He slid a pass past the post that barely got to Tyler Vesel, who buried the chance to even the game at 13:28 in the first period. It was the Mavericks’ first shot on goal of the night.

A few minutes later, Vesel and Tanner Lane broke free for an odd-man rush. When Vesel lost the puck, Ortega collected it and backhanded a shot that found its way to the back of the net at 15:55 in the first.

“I just snuck it under the pad and kept jammin’ at it,” Ortega said. “I was just giving full effort, because you never know what could happen.”

Despite having a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, UNO had only six shots on goal to UMD’s 15.

The second period started slowly for both sides until UMD’s Brenden Kotyk was whistled for interference at 12:03. The Mavericks were unable to capitalize on their first and only power play of the night, but they found the net just minutes later.

Ortega, sitting back in Omaha’s zone, found Guentzel flying past the center line. The forward caught it clean in open space and scored a backhander top-shelf on Kasimir Kaskisuo for the score. It was Guentzel’s first goal since UNO’s game against Western Michigan Oct. 18 before the sophomore was sidelined with an injury.

In the third, Blais knew his team needed to correct their approach with a two-goal lead after last night’s loss. Behind Massa, UNO came out more defensive-minded.

“Last night, we made the mistake of trying to create offense when we have a two-goal lead, and tonight, we wanted to stick to simplicity and fundamentals,” Massa said.

UMD started the period aggressive as the puck stayed in the Bulldogs’ zone for nearly the entire first four minutes of action.

UMD got chance after chance, but if they weren’t going into Massa’s glove or colliding off his stick or pads, they were hitting the pipe or a Mavericks defenseman.

UMD pulled its goalie with a little more than a minute to play, but Ortega hustled to get a puck drifting back in the Bulldogs’ zone and slung one home for his fourth point of the night and the UNO victory.

“Massa made some great saves, the difference-maker in the third period when they had a couple opportunities,” Blais said. “We played a better strategic game, a better positional game tonight than last night, but the stars [were] Ryan Massa and Austin Ortega.”

This marks the first loss for UMD since falling to Miami (Oh.) Oct. 31. The Bulldogs had the longest unbeaten streak in the NCAA before the 4-1 loss.

Despite coming away with just a split after opening up with an early lead and finishing with a  huge shot advantage, Sandelin said his team can’t be disappointed in the way they played.

“We didn’t play poorly at all; we just couldn’t find a way to score,” Sandelin said. “That’s hockey. That’s just how it works sometimes. For our team, I don’t want us to think we went backwards.”

Duluth has the week off before returning home for a series against Colorado College. UNO will go on another road stint starting against No. 2 North Dakota Thanksgiving weekend.

After an up-and-down weekend, the Mavericks were just happy they could take something away from the series that they could bring with them up to Grand Forks.

“Tonight we were able to get up on the board; we really showed we’re a scoring team,” Ortega said. “Kind of sending a message to North Dakota that we can score on any goalie out there.”