It didn't come as easily, but UNO still made it to first place in the WCHA.
Andrej Sustr and Josh Archibald scored third-period goals 35 seconds apart to break a 1-1 tie and complete a sweep of Colorado College with a 3-1 win Saturday night before 6,698 at CenturyLink Center.
A determined Colorado College made it more difficult than in UNO's 8-4 Friday night win, but the two points the Mavs picked up each night count the same.
With the rest of the top six teams either taking the weekend off or playing in nonconference series, UNO's four-point weekend helped it jump from a fifth-place tie all the way to first.
The Nos. 15 and 16 Mavs (13-8-1, 9-4-1 WCHA) entered Saturday in a three-way tie for second, one point behind St. Cloud State. Now they stand alone with 19 points.
“To be on top of the league like this, it's a special feeling,” said UNO goalie John Faulkner, who turned aside 20 shots and improved to 11-3-1 after picking up his second win of the weekend.
“You never take anything for granted. We go to work every day and give it 100 percent, and as a team we're very confident in one another. We know what kind of hockey we're capable of playing.”
Only North Dakota, tied for third place with 17 points, and Minnesota, alone in sixth with 15 points, have games in hand on UNO.
UNO coach Dean Blais said his players were “fired up” after the game to be in first.
“It's one thing to want it,” he said, “and it's another thing to work for it and earn it.”
Sustr put UNO ahead with 10:32 left in regulation on a shot from the point just after the Mavs won the faceoff following a roughing penalty on Mike Boivin.
Then Archibald scored his fourth goal of the series and 11th of the season with a laser from the right faceoff circle.
Colorado College (8-12-2, 5-8-1) played a near-perfect road game for most of two periods, slowing the Mavs' high-powered offense while taking a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal.
But a short-handed goal by Bryce Aneloski — from the slot and between the legs of goalie Joe Howe — tied the game with 1:34 left before the second intermission.
“It was really key to get that short-handed goal at the end of the second period,” Blais said. “It gave us all kinds of momentum and life.”
After managing 15 shots on goal through two periods, UNO put 14 more on Howe in the final period. Colorado College's winless streak was extended to seven games (0-6-1).
“I thought we played a pretty good road game,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “We just couldn't make a play to go up 2-0 in the second period, and the short-hander hurt us.”
UNO continued its four-series trend of high-scoring openers and defensive-minded finales. In series against St. Cloud State, Minnesota State-Mankato, Quinnipiac and now CC, an average of 10.3 goals were scored in the first game compared with 4.3 in the second.
“We knew it would be a different game after last night,” Sustr said. “It's always like that when you have a blowout kind of game on Friday. You're going to have a team come back at you pretty hard. You have to be focused and ready and know your game plan.”
Colorado College scored first, as William Rapuzzi stationed himself in front of the net and tipped an Eamonn McDermott shot from the high slot past Faulkner with 10:09 left in the first period.
“Colorado (College) played a lot better game tonight than last night,” Blais said. “... They played a good road game and fixed what was broken last night, and they were in position to win the game tonight with a bounce or an opportunistic play.”
Instead, UNO found a way to tie the game, then win it in the third period.
The Mavs skated for a fourth straight game without center Brock Montpetit, and winger Johnnie Searfoss sat out the past two games with back spasms.
“It was more of a character win than anything,” Blais said. “We're not going to out-talent anyone right now. We've got to, hopefully, outwork them and get a few breaks here and there.”
Next up for UNO is a series at No. 11 Denver (12-6-3, 7-4-3 and tied for third in the WCHA with 17 points).
“We made sure we were ready for this weekend, and we've got to be even more ready for next weekend,” Sustr said. “Denver is a good team, and playing in elevation at their rink is always tough.”
Colorado College (8-12-2, 5-8-1) ................. 1 0 0—1
At UNO (13-8-1, 9-4-1) ................. 0 1 2—3
First period: 1, CC, Rapuzzi 11 (McDermott, Schwartz), 9:51 (pp).
Second period: 2, UNO, Aneloski 4 (Zombo, Gwidt), 18:26 (sh).
Third period: 3, UNO, Sustr 5 (Young, Lane), 9:28 (pp). 4, UNO, Archibald 11 (Walters, Cooper), 10:03.
Shots on goal:
Colorado College ................. 9 4 8—21
UNO ................. 8 7 14—29
Power plays: CC 1-5, UNO 1-6.
Penalties-minutes: CC 7-14, UNO 6-12.
Goalies: CC, Howe 4-6-1 (29 shots, 26 saves), 58:07. UNO, Faulkner, 11-3-1 (21 shots, 20 saves), 60:00.
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