If there's a best way to score your first collegiate goal, getting the game-winner in overtime has to be near the top.
Sophomore defenseman Jake Parenteau went nearly 38 games without finding the back of the net before his slap shot beat Nebraska-Omaha (14-13-6, 11-9-5 WCHA) goaltender Ryan Massa 2:46 into overtime to give Minnesota (22-11-1, 18-7-0 WCHA) a 3-2 victory in Omaha. Sam Warning and Nick Bjugstad also scored for the Gophers with Brock Montpetit and Jayson Megna getting goals for the Mavericks.
Minnesota moved up to seventh in the Pairwise with the win and maintain a two point lead over Minnesota-Duluth with three games left in the WCHA regular season.
The Gophers continued their recent string of fast starts Friday night, out-shooting the Mavericks 11-6 in the opening period. They were all over Nebraska-Omaha, smothering them with a vicious forecheck and testing Massa early. Warning made it 1-0 5:53 into the game after defenseman Nate Schmidt found the freshman forward with a 50 foot breakout pass.
Kyle Rau hit the post late in the first but regardless, Ryan Massa continued to shine for Nebraska-Omaha en route to making 29 saves.
Although the Gophers played disciplined hockey last weekend, only having three penalties in two games, they were able to match that total in the first nineteen minutes of this weekend's series. Bad penalties, including a headbutt by Erik Haula and a retaliatory unsportsmanlike minor by Kyle Rau after Michael Young tripped Nick Bjugstad, gave the Mavericks countless chances to get back in the game.
A tripping penalty by Jake Hansen was finally the catalyst for Brock Montpetit to get his sixth goal right as the two-minute power play expired 7:51 into the second period.
Less than four minutes later, Jayson Megna scored his twelfth goal of the season to give Nebraska-Omaha a 2-1 lead. Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson played well Friday, making 22 saves, but was once again beat high on the glove side for a goal.
Down a goal in spite of out-shooting the Mavericks after forty minutes 19-18, Minnesota turned it on in the third period. As the period went on, Massa continued to stop Gopher chances and odd-man rushes and UNO's defense used its size well to push around Minnesota's forwards. Nick Bjugstad, however, was able to tie the game at 2 just over 4 minutes into the final period. The Florida Panthers prospect scored his 23rd goal of the season on a backhand shot which found its way between Zach Budish and the net.
As the final minutes of regulation wound down, the Mavericks began to tire while Minnesota spent multiple 60-90 second stretches in the Nebraska-Omaha zone. Matt White had a good chance on Patterson with 30 seconds remaining in regulation but other than that it became of whether or not they could hold off the Gophers and salvage a point. It wasn't meant to be and Parenteau sent the often vocal road fans in Omaha out of Century Link Center happy.
Although the Gophers ended up with the two points and looked dominant at times Friday, it wasn't their best performance. It's never easy to win on the road in the WCHA but they gave Nebraska-Omaha too many opportunities to get back in the game with bad penalties and questionable decisions. A few players, especially Rau, were thrown off their games by the Mavericks defense and as the season winds down with single-elimination conference and national tournaments one good goalie like Ryan Massa can win those important games.
Then again, Minnesota was able to come back from a 2-1 third period deficit and out-play a good UNO team when the time called for it. That's the type of game it was Friday and the rematch should bring the best out of both teams.
However regardless of which way you look at the proverbial glass, this game will be one that Jake Parenteau will never forget.
Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha play again tomorrow at the Century Link Center in Omaha. Saturday's rematch begins at 7:00 p.m. CST and airs on the main Fox Sports North channel.