Brock Montpetit scored his second goal of the game halfway through the third period to push the Omaha hockey team past Denver, 4-3, on Thursday night in the first game of their NCHC Quarterfinal series.
With a 1-0 series lead, the Mavericks can close out the best-of-three series on Friday night and advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff next week at Minneapolis. A win by Denver on Friday would force a deciding game three on Saturday. Friday’s game begins at 7:37 p.m.
With the game tied at three, Montpetit took a pass from Ryan Walters, cut between Denver’s defensemen, and beat goalie Sam Brittain with a backhander for his career-best 14th goal of the year.
The goal was one of three powerplay goals in four chances for UNO against a Denver team that finished the regular season with the top-ranked penalty kill in the NCHC.
The Mavericks protected the lead down the stretch, blocking four shots in the final minute.
Ryan Massa got the win for Omaha with 24 saves to improve to 11-7-1 on the year. Brittain took the loss with 26 saves.
Montpetit’s heroics were set up by a Denver goal early in the third period. Trailing 3-2 entering the period, Denver’s Joey LaLeggia scooped up a bouncing puck that had ricocheted off the end glass and into the slot. He fired a shot over the shoulder of Massa for his 11th goal of the year.
It was the second time in the game the Pioneers had battled back to tie it after initially taking the lead.
At 7:27 of the first period, Will Butcher knocked down a clearing attempt at the blue line and fed David Makowski. His shot from the right point slipped by Massa who was screened on the play.
The period turned feisty down the stretch and that seemed to spark the Mavericks. They tied the game when Justin Parizek cut off a pass and pushed the puck to Montpetit. He and Walters worked a perfect give-and-go which Walters finished off for his seventh goal of the year.
Then in the last minute of the period, the Mavericks cashed in on their first power play of the game. Ian Brady glided across the goal line and passed to Dominic Zombo. His first shot was stopped, but he poked in his own rebound at 19:22.
Denver tied the game early in the second period. Daniel Doremus won the face-off back to Ty Loney who fired a shot that caught the top corner of the net.
The Mavericks weathered a five-minute penalty to Michael Young who was given a contact to the head penalty and a game misconduct. The kill seemed to spark the Mavericks who retook the lead on another late power play. Montpetit won a battle with LaLeggia along the left wing and drove to the net, beating Brittain with a high wrist shot at 18:19.