The crowd last night was just over half as large as the previous night's "Sell Out Duluth" crowd, but the volume at game end was almost as loud. Amazing what a better night's performance does to give a crowd a reason to cheer...and boy, did UNO give it's fans something to go crazy for last night. The defensive breakdowns from Friday night were absent, and freshman goaltender Ryan Massa put on a veteran performance with 43 saves on 44 shots.
In recent seasons, UNO has seemed to run into quite a few "hot goaltenders" as they peppered a goaltender with shot after shot with almost nothing going in. Last night, the role was reversed: the hot goalie wore the crimson and black, the shots all were controlled by Massa and no rebounds were available. Did Massa stake a claim to be UNO's full time goalie? He might get a nod, but it seems that UNO coach Dean Blais likes to play multiple goalies.
Once again, UNO had to fight off a five minute major penalty - this time due to sophomore Alex Simonson's charging Duluth goalie Kenny Reiter as he tried to leave the ice after a delayed penalty call against the Mavs. I initially thought it was a bad call; Reiter looked like he was going to play the puck, and since he was out of the crease, he was fair game. After the game, I looked up the rule, and realized that it doesn't really matter whether the goalie is in the crease or not. He's a protected player, and goalies can't be hit unless it's inadvertent. Simonson really didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter; he could hope that Reiter wouldn't play the puck, but if he did, the play would go on with the Bulldogs having the extra man. Is the rule right or wrong? I'm not going there; hockey teams frequently only dress two goalies a night. The tradition of the game calls for the goalie to be protected, and if you let Simonson's hit go unpenalized, Ryan Massa would have been drilled in retribution at some point. Then all heck would break loose.
That being said, Reiter probably was more deserving a Golden Globe for his dive after being hit.
It was a gritty, gutty performance that can only help UNO down the line. Expecting four points this weekend against the #1 team wasn't realistic, but two points keeps UNO in the mix in a tie for 4th place. Even more important, UNO bumped up to #20 in the Pairwise rankings according to Sioux Sports. That's nowhere near the Mavs need to be...but at least it's approaching the right neighborhood. UNO can't afford to lose their focus this week as they play the last place "Purple Cows" of Minnesota-Mankato.