DULUTH, Minn. — UNO’s penalty kill continued to short-circuit and the Mavericks’ chance at home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs went up in smoke Saturday night.
Minnesota-Duluth went 4 for 4 on the power play through nearly two periods to build a 4-0 lead and scored five power-play goals in all in a 6-0 victory that sends the Mavs on the road for the first round of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs went 5 for 8 on the power play Saturday and 7 for 12 with the man advantage for the weekend while sweeping the series.
UNO was shut out for the first time all season and suffered its worst loss since a 7-0 setback at Denver on Jan. 1, 2010.
For the second straight year, UNO lost its final four regular-season games to miss out on home ice, which goes to the top six finishers in the WCHA. This time, though, the final three losses were stunning — with 17 goals allowed, including nine on 19 power-play chances.
The 16th-ranked Mavs (18-16-2, 14-12-2 WCHA), who have lost seven of their last nine, will finish in seventh place and will play a first-round playoff series next weekend at the sixth seed.
The likely opponent, according to the WCHA’s published tiebreaker scenarios, is 10th-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato — assuming Denver wins against last-place Alaska-Anchorage on Sunday afternoon. If the Pioneers tie or suffer an upset loss, then they would host UNO in the first round.
UNO split a home series with Minnesota State in December, and went 0-1-1 at Denver in early January.
Back then, the Mavs were on a pretty good roll.
But over the last five games, UNO’s opponents are a remarkable 13 for 25 (52 percent) on the power play. They are 14 for 28 (50 percent) over the last seven games and 21 of 64 (32.8 percent) over the last 17 games dating to Dec. 30.
Overall, UNO has given up 26 goals in its last five games, though one of those games was a win.
Joe Basaraba scored two goals to complete a three-goal weekend, Austin Farley had a goal and an assist to complete a six-point (two goals, four assists) weekend and Caleb Herbert had three assists for the Bulldogs (14-17-5, 10-13-5), who finished in ninth place.
Herbert had five assists for the weekend, while Tony Cameranesi had two assists each night.
Aaron Crandall made 32 saves for the shutout, his fourth win of the season.
Mike Seidel, who had a five-point weekend, found Farley alone at the back door for the game’s first goal at 9:56 of the first period.
Another power play, another goal for Minnesota-Duluth just more than six minutes later, as Cal Decowski got his third goal of the season on assists from Cameranesi and Herbert at 16:11.
Trailing 2-0, UNO twice hit posts in the opening five minutes of the second period — first by Josh Archibald and then by Jaycob Megna — before Minnesota-Duluth made it 3 for 3 with the man advantage.
Basaraba delivered a strong backhander to the far post for a 3-0 lead at 7:53 of the second period.
With UNO already trying to kill off another penalty, defenseman Andrej Sustr was sent off with a game misconduct for a check from behind, putting the Bulldogs on a 5-on-3 and setting up five more minutes of power play time.
Andy Welinski scored on a one-timer just eight seconds later.
Minnesota-Duluth would have opened the third period with four minutes more of power play time remaining — and the ability to score an unlimited number of goals since it was for a major penalty — but Cameranesi was hit with a roughing penalty at the end of the second period. That was UNO’s first successful penalty kill.
UNO’s Dominic Zombo got a game misconduct and a five-minute major for checking from behind early in the third period, and Basaraba scored his second goal during the ensuing power play.
Seidel scored his third goal of the series, this one at even strength, with 5:41 left.