Miami led by two goals heading into the final minute.
Unfortunately for the RedHawks, No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha scored two 6-on-5 goals in the final 54 seconds to salvage a 3-3 tie at Baxter Arena on Friday.
Ryan Savage scored in the 3-on-3 overtime to secure the extra point for Miami, its first two road points in conference play this season.
RECAP: Omaha took the lead 3:28 into the game when a RedHawks clearing attempt hit a body and came to Nolan Sullivan, who was all alone at the top of the crease and backhanded it in.
Miami (3-6-3) tied it nine minutes into the opening frame when Casey Gilling settled a pass from Gordie Green in the slot and whipped it just inside the far post.
The RedHawks took the lead with 5:29 left in the first stanza on a one-timer by Savage from the top of the faceoff circle off a feed from Phil Knies.
The score remained 2-1 for over two periods until Derek Daschke forced a turnover in his own zone, springing Savage, who skated in on a 3-on-2 and fed trailer Alec Mahalak, who buried one from the center of the faceoff circle with 4:51 remaining.
With the extra attacker, UNO’s Zach Jordan banged home a rebound off a point shot by Sullivan with 54 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one.
The Mavericks (6-3-2) tied it with 10 seconds left in regulation when Kevin Conley skated the puck from behind the net to the side of the cage and snuck one inside the near post.
The game was officially a tie, and the teams skated 3-on-3 for the additional conference point, which Miami earned when Savage slammed home a rebound off a Karch Bachman shot after Rourke Russell intercepted a clearing attempt on a power play less than two minutes into the session.
STATS: It was just the third career appearance for goalie Grant Valentine and the first start and decision of his Miami career. He stopped 24 shots en route to the tie.
— Though the overtime goal does not count for official statistics, Savage still finished with a goal and two assists for a career-high three points.
— Bachman finished with two helpers, his second-ever two assist game.
— Gilling’s goal was his second of the season, and it was the first of 2019-20 for Mahalak.
— Green’s assist extended his points streak to a team-high four games, and he pulled to within eight points of 100 for his career.
THOUGHTS: Lost in the madness that was the end of this game is the performance of Valentine in his starting debut.
Regular started Ryan Larkin did not make the trip after suffering a minor undisclosed injury.
Valentine probably would’ve liked that third goal back, as it appeared he didn’t hug the near post tightly enough and a shot was able to get through, but considering he had played a handful of minutes in NCAA play prior to this game, he was stellar overall.
Valentine’s best stop was on a tipped shot that he denied by extending his left pad, and he also shut down a breakaway during the 3-on-3.
He has certainly made the case for additional ice time, and the coaching staff will have an even more difficult time divvying up starts for the balance of the season with three quality netminders.
– It’s hard not to have that here-we-go-again feeling after Miami watched a two-goal lead evaporate in the final 54 seconds, but the first extra-attacker goal was on a quality shot through traffic and the ensuing rebound and the tying goal came against a goalie that had made several key saves earlier in the game to preserve the lead.
And this isn’t your typical basement-dwelling UNO team. The Mavericks are a good team.
The concern level would be higher if this wasn’t the 12th game of the Chris Bergeron era. Turning a program around takes time, and after a bad run for over half of decade, it can be hard to be patient, but a tie against the 18th-ranked team in Division I on the road is still quite an accomplishment considering the quality of hockey Miami was playing in early October.
The RedHawks have taken huge strides in recent weeks and took another one in this game, and those two late goals against don’t undermine that.
– Really liked how Miami was able to survive the early surge by an UNO team that was really clicking early. Though they were outplayed in the first period, the RedHawks emerged from it with the lead and was the better team the rest of the game.
– Monte Graham officially finished 11-7 in the faceoff circle, but it seemed like he won every crucial draw.
Graham and Casey Gilling give Miami two outstanding faceoff weapons, a luxury the RedHawks have not enjoyed in some time.
– Scott Corbett didn’t have a point and actually ended the night minus-1, but he played an outstanding game, forcing three turnovers in one shift, playing his physical game and creating open ice for his linemates.
– Mahalak played just his third game of the season, and he appeared a lot closer to 100 percent. He was OK in his 2019-20 debut last weekend after returning from a lower-body injury, but he definitely took a step forward in this game and scored his first goal.
— How about Savage’s play? The freshman factored in all three Miami goals and scored the fourth “goal” in the 3-on-3. After recording one point in his first eight games, he has five in his last four contests.
LINEUP CHANGES: Other than Valentine in net, the only other move was Grant Frederic being reinserted into the lineup in place of Alec Capstick.
Frederic and Capstick have rotated four straight games.
Ben Lown missed his fifth consecutive contest with a lower body injury and is not close to returning.
STANDINGS: Miami and UNO entered the weekend tied with three conference points apiece, so with the RedHawks earning the extra point, they are now one point ahead of the Mavericks in sole possession of fifth place heading into the finale on Saturday.
Miami improved two spots in the PairWise to No. 38.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite what happened in the final minute of regulation, Miami was able to regroup and ultimate salvage the extra conference point with the 3-on-3 goal by Savage.
Once again the RedHawks refused to quit and played hard until the final goal.
Expectations for this season were very low, but with less than two months elapsed in 2019-20, Miami’s trek to becoming relevant again has gone much quicker than expected.