DENVER — Point taken.
UNO never led in its weekend series with Denver, but got goals Saturday night from its big three of Ryan Walters, Josh Archibald and Matt White to earn a 3-3 tie that allows the 13th-ranked Mavericks to share first place in the WCHA with the ninth-ranked Pioneers.
“I’m happy we got our point out of this,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “We would have liked to get two, but so would have they.”
Walters scored his nation-leading 15th goal late in the second period to tie it 3-3, and then goalies John Faulkner of UNO and Juho Olkinuora of Denver took over from there.
“It had the makings of being the same kind of game as last night when they scored right away,” Blais said. “But we dug down and played well. Our scorers scored, and Johnny Faulkner was back to his old form.”
The Mavs (13-9-2 overall, 9-5-2 WCHA) never fell behind by two goals as they had in Friday’s 7-4 loss. They still held on to a share of first with Denver (13-6-4, 8-4-4) with 20 points.
Both top-ranked Minnesota and No. 7 North Dakota also won Saturday, and they now share third place with 19 points. Those teams also have two games in hand over both UNO and Denver, as does fifth-place St. Cloud State — which has 18 points.
Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin are tied for sixth with 17 points, and Minnesota State-Mankato is eighth with 16.
UNO carried play for the final period and overtime, outshooting Denver 26-11. But Olkinuora — one night after making 38 saves — turned aside 43 as his record moved to 7-1-4.
“The fact that we can generate that many shots in the third period and overtime, at a high altitude against a good team, shows that our team conditioning is good,” Blais said. “They were outshooting us for quite a bit, but we turned the tide, and from the third period on we were the better team.”
Denver seized momentum early Saturday. Zac Larraza got his third goal of the series — all in 7:45 of actual game time — just 1:31 into the game. Larraza had broken a 4-4 tie with two goals in less than two minutes late in the third period of the opener.
Denver held a 15-9 lead in shots on goal through the first period, but after a turnover at the blue line, Tanner Lane fed White on a breakaway, and the junior scored his 12th goal of the season with 20 seconds left in the period for a 1-1 tie.
White is tied for sixth in the country in goals.
Denver’s Joey LaLeggia was called for slashing on the play to put the Mavs on a power play. But the Pioneers killed off the penalty and took a 2-1 lead on their own power play as Shawn Ostrow punched home the rebound of Scott Mayfield’s shot from the high slot at 2:44 of the second period.
Back came the Mavs, as Archibald kept a clearing attempt in the offensive zone and snapped a wrist shot high past Olkinuora to tie the game 2-2 at 3:49. It was Archibald’s 13th goal of the season — he’s tied for second in the country.
UNO went on a five-minute major as LaLeggia was given a game misconduct, but the Pioneers scored short-handed with 10:44 left in the second period, as Larraza set up Paul Phillips for his first goal of the season.
“A lot of times that will turn the tide,” Blais said. “You’re thinking you can get a goal or two on the major and instead we gave up a short-handed goal. But, although disappointed, we weathered the storm. I’m happy we stuck together.”
Walters scored his nation-leading 15th goal on a laser from the right wing, converting quickly on a turnover forced by the forecheck of Andrew Schmit at 17:43.
Faulkner denied Denver goal-leader Chris Knowlton at point-blank range with about 4:30 to go in regulation. Faulkner had 33 saves, one night after stopping just 15 of 21.
“He made several spectacular saves,” Blais said.
Forward Zahn Raubenheimer suffered a second-period leg injury and didn’t return, and the junior will be evaluated once the team returns home.
The Mavs also played again without forwards Brock Montpetit and Johnnie Searfoss because of injuries.
Denver went into the game with a short bench, which got even shorter when LaLeggia was tossed.
“There weren’t a lot of pretty plays,” Blais said. “But there were a lot of gritty plays.”