The unexpected has become the routine.
Bemidji State extended its strange Maverick mastery with a 3-2 victory Saturday night over UNO to leave town with three of the four points in the opening WCHA series of the season.
The Beavers are 7-1-4 against UNO since the start of the 2010-11 season, including 5-0-3 in Omaha.
“We've been so fortunate and, again, the hockey gods have been good to us down here,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said.
It's a series dominance worthy of a national championship contender. But in all other WCHA games — including the playoffs — in that time frame, the Beavers are only 16-31-5.
What makes it so?
“That's a question we've been asking ourselves ever since I've been here,” UNO senior captain Brent Gwidt said. “Tom Serratore runs a pretty good, systematic game, and maybe we just kind of play into that system with what we want our identity to be — a hard-working, forechecking, fast team.
“They sit back a bit and they wait on our mistakes and pounce — whether it's odd-man rushes or turnovers, which are going to happen. Maybe we play into them.”
Still, UNO bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game with a pair of second-period goals — an accomplishment worthy of recognition considering the Beavers' ability to go into lockdown mode — but gave up an unfortunate goal late in the second period, David Boehm's second of the game, and couldn't recover before 3,921 at the CenturyLink Center.
“Frustrating,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “Really frustrating. Now, you've got to give Bemidji credit. They found a way to get the job done.”
The Beavers got a little help.
UNO (2-3-1, 0-1-1 WCHA) was scoreless on eight power-play chances, with five ending early because the Mavs committed penalties of their own while they had the man advantage.
That included a penalty 2:47 into a five-minute major in the third period and two penalties for too many men on the ice, one of them negating another third-period power play.
“Undisciplined penalties,” Blais said. “We're on a power play and take a tripping behind their net (in the second period). ... The five-minute penalty was our chance to win the game and that was the story — we didn't have anything generated even in the 2½ minutes before.”
UNO didn't even manage a shot on goal during its two full first-period power plays and had just two shots on goal with the man advantage all night.
“They play a defensive style, so that means one of their strengths is going to be their penalty-kill,” Gwidt said. “Seeing how our power play performed, the only thing we can do is come (to practice) Monday and get better at it.”
And the too many men on the ice penalties?
“They know who to replace on the changes, but you've got to be alert,” Blais said. “And you've got to be able to count to five (skaters on the ice) if you're jumping out there. If two guys go back on (and one comes off) ... bad math.”
Down 2-0 is not a good situation against the defense-minded Beavers, but — with the teams skating 4-on-4 — sophomore James Polk picked up a turnover, skated in 2-on-1 and shot it over Andrew Walsh's left shoulder for his first collegiate goal.
Then UNO tied it as defenseman Brian O'Rourke checked a Beaver off the puck in neutral ice and flipped it ahead to Josh Archibald skating up the right wing. The sophomore went airborne while sending the puck toward the goal as a defenseman slid at his feet, and the puck got past Walsh to tie the game, extending Archibald's goal-scoring streak to three games.
But Bemidji State (2-1-1, 1-0-1) took back momentum, as well as a 3-2 lead, with 1:39 left in the period after Anthony Stolarz lost track of the puck after a rebound. Boehm tracked it down in the left faceoff circle, spinning and firing into an open net for his second goal of the night.
Senior John Faulkner played the third period in place of Stolarz, the freshman who was a second-round draft pick of the Flyers but is 0-3 with three one-goal Saturday night losses.
“He got victimized a little bit,” Blais said. “I put John Faulkner in to give us a lift, and I think it did. But Anthony, on the third goal ... that puck should have been out of the zone, probably twice, before the guy scored the goal.”
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