Huskers improve to 4-0-0 on the season with sweep of Mavericks
The John Breslow Ice Hockey Center was packed with fans this weekend as they watched the University of Nebraska Men’s Hockey Club open their home schedule by completing a second straight sweep to open their season with back-to-back wins over instate rival, the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
In game one Friday (9/23) night at the Johnny, the Huskers scored three goals in each of the first two periods and two more in the final frame as they took out the visiting Mavericks by a final score of 8 to 3 in front of a standing room only crowd. Opening the scoring in the first period for Nebraska and scoring his second goal in three games this season was Freshman forward Grant Webster (Lake Zurich, IL). Webster exploded the bench as Head Coach Reed Fuller pulled starting goaltender Alex Kopf during a delayed Omaha penalty and was able to find a loose puck in the high slot where he ripped a one-timer to beat Maverick goaltender Kyle Wernli. Webster’s goal came at the 2:38 mark in the first and was unassisted. Just over a minute later, senior forward Justin Bonthius (Minnetonka, MN) scored his first of three goals on the night to extend the lead to 2-0, but Omaha struck back quickly with a goal from Logan Mercier at the 6:29 mark in the bring the Mavericks within 1 as the teams headed in to the first intermission. The second period saw more action with the Huskers extending their lead by adding three more goals to Omaha’s one, highlighted by Matt Rozman’s (Edina, MN) back-to-back goals and the lead was 6-2 heading into the final frame. The third period had goals by Nolan Bethel (Blaine, MN) and Nathan Weber (Gilberts, IL) and the Huskers finished with the five-goal victory over the Mavericks. Goaltender Alex Kopf (Omaha, NE) secured his third victory of the season with 26 saves on 29 chances.
On Saturday afternoon, Head Coach Reed Fuller and Assistant Coach Nathan Fuller made some major adjustments to the lineup that saw 9 first year players make their home debut. The action on the ice was much more hotly contested in Game 2, and Omaha opened the scoring with a Power Play goal from Logan Mercier, his second of the season, at the 7:18 mark to put the Mavericks up 1-0. That lead was short lived as just 3 minutes and change later freshmen forward Matthew Szafranski (Eagle River, WI) netted his first career collegiate goal to even the score back at one, with a great assist coming from linemate and fellow first year player Nolan Bethel (Blaine, MN). The Huskers and the Mavericks would open the second and play scoreless until the 19:39 mark when once again Omaha’s Logan Mercier scored unassisted on the Power Play to tie it all at 2 as the teams headed to the locker room to prepare for what was sure to be an exciting finish. Both teams seemed to lock down defensively the first half of the third, but eventually the Huskers appeared to wear down the Mavericks when Evan Detina (Gurnee, IL) put the Big Red up for good with 14:37 remaining. Detina would go on to add the finishing touch with his second of the game with just under 1 minute remaining, ultimately giving the Huskers a series clinching win of 4-2. Goaltender Alex Kopf (Omaha, NE) moved to 4-0-0 on the year making 14 saves on 16 shots in the win. His numbers continue to be some of the best in the nation with his undefeated record, save percentage of .931 and outstanding goals against average of 1.67 to start the year.
Head Coach Reed Fuller had a few comments after the weekend: “Wow, what a way to kick off the home schedule. Husker Nation turned out in full force this weekend and it was a huge advantage for our guys to get that kind of support from our fans. I spoke with the General Manager of the Breslow it is clear there were over 750 people in attendance Friday night alone and the crowd was electric. I thought our guys reacted well to the new pressures that come with playing at home in front of a lot of fans and that is something I hope we can continue throughout the season. We need to work on keeping our emotions in check at times – finding the fine line and making sure we don’t cross it, but overall, the compete level was tremendous, and I can’t take that away from this group. I felt we played well, but it was a story of two different games when talking about Friday and Saturday. Friday night we used a lot of veteran faces and proven young guys in our lineup that led to an offensive explosion while Saturday was more of a strategic win and much lower scoring for ACHA standards. I was able to get in a lot of first year players who saw their first collegiate action while giving some rest to our older guys – many of whom may have not sat out a game in their entire career before now. The young guys did a fantastic job on Saturday in following our game plan defensively to hold a very talented offensive team in Omaha to only 16 shots on goal. Building up depth is key at this point of the season, and I could not be prouder of the effort everyone put in on the weekend. Coach Nate and I have both been reviewing film like crazy already and are ready to get back to work this week and next as we prepare for a super tough Missouri State team to come into the Breslow on the 7th and 8th. This will be a tough challenge for our group, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how we stack up against another storied MACHA program that we have been battling with for years. I am thrilled with how the guys are buying in to our system, showing up every night to compete and get better in practice, and by supporting each other in all situations on and off the ice as we’ve got off to a nice start this season. The grind is just now starting, and we can’t wait to see everyone again in two weeks back at the Breslow!”
On the weekend the Huskers (4-0-0) outshot the Mavericks (0-2-0) by a total of 106 to 45, continuing their trend of doubling up opponents on shots during the first two series of the season. The Huskers return to the ice with their next home games as they host conference foe Missouri State on October 7th and 8th. Game time for Friday night is 7:00 PM and Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM – both at the John Breslow Hockey Center in downtown Lincoln.