Friday, January 30, 2015

Ortega Overtime Goal Gives UNO Hockey a 3-2 Victory Over #1 North Dakota

What. A. Game.

In front of over 11,000 fans, #5 UNO defeated #1 North Dakota 3-2 in overtime.  The game lived up to all of the hype this week.  UNO broke out to a 2-0 lead early in the second period with goals from freshmen Tyler Vesel and Avery Peterson.  But UNO took a series of bad penalties to let North Dakota tie the game. Freshman Joel Messner was ejected from the game late in the second period for boarding, giving North Dakota a five minute major power play.  UNO killed it off, but as it expired, Grant Gallo was penalized for interference and North Dakota scored on the delayed penalty early in the third period.

That one goal lead held until the final minute. After Brian Cooper was called for tripping with 2:30 left in regulation, North Dakota pulled their goalie to give them a 6-on-4 power play.  UNO's Jake Guentzel nearly scored an empty net goal with just over a minute left, but a North Dakota defensemen knocked the shot down at center ice.  But with 47 seconds left, North Dakota's Drake Caggiula buried a rebound to tie the game.  UNO coach Dean Blais' reaction says it all:

The demoralized Mavericks then had to scramble to get the game to overtime as North Dakota put on quite a rush to finish the game in the third period.

The brief intermission before overtime allowed UNO to regain their edge, and when North Dakota took two stupid penalties of their own, UNO had a 5-on-3 advantage.  UNO played the two man advantage extremely conservatively, not attempting a shot until just as the first penalty expired.  And what a shot:  Austin Ortega redirected Ian Brady's shot for the wing into the net for his NCAA-leading ninth game winning goal

The victory moves UNO to 2nd place in the Pairwise rankings that seed the NCAA tournament, and also ensures that no matter what happens Saturday night, UNO will remain in first place in the conference standings.

That Saturday night game should be epic, if tonight's game is any indication.

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