ST. CLOUD, Minn. — UNO may have seemed at times to be in a giving mood, but at least it has a chance to get greedy now.
The 14th-ranked Mavericks twice saw a two-goal lead halved in 22 seconds or less, and then they nearly squandered a three-goal, third-period advantage. But they held on for a 6-5 victory over St. Cloud State in front of 4,283 Friday night at the National Hockey and Event Center.
The Mavs, already meeting the baseline goal of earning two points in a road series, go for the sweep in Saturday's 7:07 p.m. game.
“You never criticize a win,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Dean Blais said. “We got the two points. We made some good plays offensively, but what happened out there isn't in our defensive playbook.”
Reigning national player of the month Ryan Walters had two goals and two assists, and Matt White, Bryce Aneloski and Dominic Zombo each had a goal and an assist. Josh Archibald added two assists for the Mavs, who improved to 10-4-1 overall and 6-2-1 in the WCHA. They took sole possession of third place in the league with 13 points.
But they nearly gave away a 6-3 lead as David Morley completed a hat trick with a pair of third-period goals. The Mavs held on as John Faulkner denied Morley and Ben Hanowski in a wild flurry with a little more than a minute left after the Huskies pulled their goalie.
“A win is a win, and we're happy,” said White, who gave up his body to block a shot in the closing minute. “But I think we're a little frustrated about how we played as far as puck possession and retrieving pucks.
“We need to do a better job playing our game. We got away from it a little bit. But you've got to credit them, because they came hard and pushed the pace.”
Faulkner, a national-best 9-1-1, had several spectacular stops in a 29-save night.
“Even though five goals went past Faulkner, he made some huge saves,” Walters said. “There was a handful of back-door passes and (shots) right from the slot. Anybody who knows hockey knows he played well.”
St. Cloud State (8-7, 6-5), which dropped into a tie for fourth with 12 points, switched goalies to start the third period, but there wasn't much Rasmus Reijola could do when Zombo put a pass on the tape of Archibald in front, with Archibald and Walters 2-on-0 in front of the goalie.
Archibald tapped it to Walters, who scored easily 2:48 into the period to make it 6-3.
Game over? Hardly.
Morley converted his second goal 34 seconds into a power play, making it 6-4 with 11:26 left.
Then Morley completed the hat trick, when his shot from the slot got past Faulkner, making it 6-5 with 5:28 left in regulation.
“They're clever,” Blais said. “They force you to run around. They use that (Olympic-sized) ice sheet pretty well. They have a lot of small, crafty guys, and we didn't do a very good job defending our zone.”
Morley, a 5-foot-7, 170-pound freshman, had a chance at an open net at one point in the wild final 90 seconds but couldn't get off a shot.
“That one stings,” said Morley, who had previously scored only one goal. “I probably should have one-timed it. But it went off my skate and I tried to pull it in for the shot.”
UNO emerged with a 3-2 lead after a first period that included a three-goal burst in 53 seconds. The Mavs scored the first two goals in the flurry for a 3-1 lead.
Walters and White scored 31 seconds apart, but the Huskies made it 3-2 on Kalle Kossila's second goal 22 seconds later.
“We just had far too many mistakes in our own end,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “We talked before the game about managing the puck, and they got three goals in transition and two when we were trying to back-check.”
Aneloski's rebound, after goalie Ryan Faragher denied Walters, gave UNO a 4-2 second-period lead, but Morley scored 17 seconds later. After putting a shot off the post from in front, he reached over Faulkner and pushed the puck into the net.
Zombo's goal with 4:23 left in the second period restored the Mavs' two-goal lead at 5-3.
Walters made it 6-3, but St. Cloud State was just getting warmed up.
“Everybody was saying, 'Don't let up, keep going, get the puck deep,' all those good things,” Walters said. “But they made some good plays and they caught us out of position a couple of times. The effort was there, but our execution wasn't.”
Blais seemed equal parts happy and frustrated.
“It looked like a Sunday afternoon shinny game,” he said, referring to a game played on one's knees with sticks. “My gosh. … But I don't want to be a Scrooge. We'll take the two points.”
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