No. 20 UNO entered Friday’s clash with 12th-ranked Wisconsin as the seventh best team nationally on the power play, and the Badgers were generous in giving the Mavericks a lot of opportunities to improve on that ranking.
But UNO sputtered with the man advantage, failing to finish with several open nets, and it cost the Mavs in a 5-2 loss to Wisconsin in front of 5,605 at Baxter Arena.
The Mavericks were just 1 of 7 on the power play and coughed up an opportunity to take the lead in the second period when the Badgers’ Dylan Holloway received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for contact to the head.
The major lasted just 1:37 as UNO’s Kevin Conley was whistled for holding, and UW was able to take advantage when Alex Turcotte scored on the four-on-four situation to put the Badgers up 2-1.
Despite the loss, UNO coach Mike Gabinet said he thought his team performed well against a team that has already seen a lot of good competition.
Wisconsin has played eight of its nine games against ranked opponents.
“I liked our team’s game tonight. I thought the guys played really hard. I thought we executed our game plan. Obviously they’re a highly skilled, opportunistic team, which we knew about,” Gabinet said.
He added that he wasn’t discouraged by the team missing many open nets — both on the power play and at even strength. The Mavs outshot Wisconsin 29-21.
“That’s not going to happen too often. You get those types of chances, usually a couple of those are going in. Even five-on-five tonight I think we had three or four posts and a couple of open nets that just couldn’t find the back of the net,” Gabinet said.
“When you get those chances, usually good things are happening. Now we’ve just got to find a way to capitalize on those chances,” he added.
The Badgers got on the board first when Ty Pelton-Byce one-timed a pass from Tarek Baker past Mav goaltender Isaiah Saville at 17:24 of the first period.
But the Mavs knotted the game at 1-1 on their third man-advantage opportunity 3:09 into the second period when Brandon Scanlin fired a slapshot through the pads of UW netminder Daniel Lebedeff.
But things went south quickly after the five-minute major chance was negated as the Badgers scored twice in less than four minutes to take a 3-1 lead with 2:53 remaining in the second.
Freshman Nolan Sullivan, who would later score his first career goal, said he didn’t think losing the five-minute opportunity affected the Mavs’ mentality.
“I think it was a fluky penalty to kind of even it up there four-on-four. You can look at that penalty in particular and say it was a buzzkill, but there were seven or eight others there that were pretty costly, and that’s been a common theme here the first few games,” Sullivan said.
“But as far as deflating the team, we’ve got to rally on the bench anyway through the highs and lows and just try to be the most steadfast team,” he added.
UNO, which fell to 4-2-1, had a chance to get back into the game when the Badgers’ Tyler Inamoto took a tripping penalty with 11:30 left in the contest.
But the Mavericks were unable to convert with the man advantage for the fifth time in six tries as Wisconsin held on to its 3-1 advantage.
After another failed power play late in the third, Sullivan got UNO within 3-2 when he scored from the slot on a centering pass from Tyler Weiss with 3:55 left.
The Badgers (5-4-0) iced the game with a pair of empty-net goals in the final 1:28.
The two face off again Saturday at 7:07 p.m. at Baxter Arena.
Wisconsin (5-4-0)...... 1 2 2—5
At UNO (4-2-1)........ 0 1 1—2
First period: 1, UW, Pelton-Byce (Baker, Lindmark), 17:24.
Second period: 2, UNO, Scanlin (Brushett, Ward), 3:09, PP. 3, UW, Turcotte (Kalynuk, Inamoto), 13:15. 4, UW, Ahcan (Ess, Vorlicky), 17:07.
Third period: 5, UNO, Sullivan (Weiss, Primeau), 16:05. 6, UW, Ahcan (Turcotte, Kalynuk), 18:32, EN. 7, UW, Dhooghe (Messner), 18:55, EN.
Shots on goal
Wisconsin 5 7 9—21
UNO 5 12 12—29
Power plays: Wisconsin 0-6, UNO 1-7.
Penalties-minutes: Wisconsin 10-31, UNO 9-18.
Goalies: Wisconsin, Daniel Lebedeff (29 shots, 27 saves, 60:00). UNO, Isaiah Saville (19 shots, 16 saves, 59:25).