SOUTH BEND, Ind. – For the first time in school history, the Omaha hockey team earned a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four, beating RIT 4-0 in the Midwest Regional finals on Sunday night at Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame.
Ryan Massa made 40 saves for his second shutout of the season and was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and a member of the all-tournament team. He backstopped both wins in the regional and finished with a 0.50 goals-against average and a .986 save percentage. Sunday’s win was his career-best 14th of the year.
The Mavericks will play Providence College in the first Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday, April 9 at 4 p.m. CT at TD Bank Garden in Boston. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Mavericks broke open a scoreless game with four goals in the third period to beat the Tigers, Atlantic Hockey’s playoff champion and the winner of eight straight games. UNO is now 20-12-6, its third 20-win season in Dean Blais’ six-year tenure as head coach. It also will be his fourth appearance in a Frozen Four.
RIT had outshot the Mavericks 22-19 through two periods, and both teams had good chances to score. RIT’s best came with 5:10 to go in the first, but Massa stopped Josh Mitchell on a net-mouth scramble, swinging his arm across the goal line to deny Mitchell’s poke at a rebound.
UNO finally broke the deadlock just 61 seconds into the third. Luc Snuggerud threw a drop pass to Jake Randolph just inside the RIT blue line. Randolph fired a low slap shot that slipped inside the right post beyond the outstretched leg of goalie Jordan Ruby.
The Tigers pushed back, eventually outshooting the Mavericks 18-9 in the period, but a pretty passing play at 15:36 set up the Mavericks second goal. David Pope slid the puck across the slot the Austin Ortega who quickly dished to Jake Guentzel. Guentzel drew Ruby out of position before slipping the puck back to Ortega who had an empty net for his team-leading 20th goal of the year.
Just 1:16 later, Justin Parizek put the game out of reach. He broke in on a breakaway after being sprung by a pass from Guentzel. He fired the puck past the glove hand of Ruby for his 13th goal of the year.
Pope added an empty netter off an assist from Ortega at 17:42 for the final margin.
Guentzel had a big night. In addition to the two assists, he had seven shot blocks to lead all players. Brian Cooper, who had six shot blocks in the game and finished the weekend with 10, and Randolph (1-2-3) also were named to the all-tournament team.
With the Mavericks advancing to the Frozen Four, the NCHC has two teams still playing for a national championship. North Dakota will play in the other semifinal against Boston University, making both semis a battle of NCHC vs. Hockey East teams.