UNO stays hot, topples Gophers hockey

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 1, 2012 - 7:16 AM

The Mavericks won their seventh game in a row while the sluggish U's six-game unbeaten string ended.


There's a catchy lyric from the Counting Crows' song, Omaha: "I think you better turn your ticket in and get your money back at the door."

Many Gophers fans walking out of Mariucci Arena on Friday night probably wished they could do just that after the Gophers were completely bottled up by Nebraska Omaha, that gigantic yet stingy team from "somewhere in middle America," as Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz would chime.

The third-ranked Gophers paid for a drowsy effort the final 40 minutes. Brainerd native Josh Archibald scored the winning goal and assisted on two others as the 13th-ranked Mavericks, who have won seven in a row, handed the Gophers their first home loss since March 3 with a 3-2 victory.

Goalie Adam Wilcox lost for the first time since Nov. 3, but he wasn't helped by his sleepwalking teammates.

"Chain fell off the bike tonight," coach Don Lucia said. "We just couldn't make plays, whether it was a guy in the slot ready to hammer a puck and it's in his skate or just disjointed coming up the rink. ... Guys seemed, for whatever reason, like they didn't have their legs. I was surprised."

The highlight -- or lowlight -- of the siesta came when captain Zach Budish made a casual pass through the slot of his own zone from the half wall. Mavericks leading scorer Ryan Walters picked the puck off and dropped it to Archibald, who buried the eventual winner 4 minutes, 43 seconds into the third period.

"Terrible turnover by me," Budish said. "I gave it to their two hottest players, and they made no mistake putting it in the back of the net."

The goal came a minute after the Gophers showed no fire on a refuse-to-shoot power play. It also followed a second period in which the Gophers went the first seven minutes without a shot and lost their 'A' game after taking a 2-1 first-period lead.

They took 11 shots the last two periods. They couldn't get pucks behind the Mavericks' ginormous defensemen, starting with 6-8 Andrej Sustr.

"Look down their lineup -- 6-8, 6-7, 6-6," Gophers defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "It's guys that have a lot of length. They've got the ability to keep you out of the middle of the ice, and that's what they did all night. They kept our guys away from all the scoring areas."

Mavericks goalie John Faulkner improved to 8-0-1 with 19 saves. Dominic Zombo and Jaycob Megna also scored for the Mavericks.

Budish and Christian Isackson scored for Minnesota. For Isackson, it was his first goal since the Oct. 12 opener. Wilcox (8-2-2) made 24 saves and gave up more than two goals for only the second time this season. The Gophers' 4-0-2 unbeaten streak ended at six.

"We didn't execute at all," Schmidt said. "We got up 2-1, we coasted. We got ahead and we just pulled back the reins."

UNO coach Dean Blais, meantime, had to be reminded of the early '80s when Rick Zombo and Jim Archibald were skating for North Dakota and he was an assistant there. Now Blais has brought good bloodlines to Omaha.

Zombo's son and Archibald's son teamed up on the first goal and made the Gophers' life difficult all night. Josh Archibald is off to a great start with seven goals. He had 10 last year, none in the second half.

Asked how Archibald compares to his tough-customer pops, who played briefly for the North Stars, Blais said: "Jimmy was scoring a goal or serving a penalty. Josh can't take penalties like [his father] used to in the old days."


    Up next: 7 p.m. tonight vs. Nebraska Omaha • TV: FSN (1500-AM)

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