UNO's prosperity lasted 50 seconds.
The Mavericks rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits to tie No. 2 Michigan, but Derek DeBlois tipped a shot into goalie Reed Peters, and when Peters mishandled the rebound in the crease, DeBlois put the puck in the net with 6:07 to go.
It lifted Michigan to a 4-3 victory Saturday night as the Wolverines escaped CenturyLink Center and a crowd of 6,755 with a split of the two-game series.
“They just got a bounce,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “Reed played pretty well, but he goes to grab it and it bounced higher than he thought it would. Kind of a fluker, and they had a guy right on the doorstep.”
UNO trailed 2-0 and 3-1, but Brock Montpetit's power-play goal — he lifted a backhander past Steve Racine from in tight — finally tied the game 3-3 with 6:57 left.
“You just have to go harder than the shift before to really put a team away,” Montpetit said.
UNO (6-6-0) continues to negotiate its way through its difficult November, yet sees where opportunities have escaped. A 4-2 record against top teams has helped wash away some of the sting from a disappointing 2-4 start against more mundane opponents.
“We just split the last two weekends and could have easily come out with sweeps,” Montpetit said, highlighting the positive perspective. “But that's something to be down about, too. We tied the game, but gave up the winning goal on the next shift.”
Peters, a freshman, got his first career start and made his second career appearance. He had almost no chance on Michigan's first three goals — on a power-play turnover, an even-strength breakaway and a short-handed breakaway.
Blais said Ryan Massa, who has won series openers while allowing two goals each of the past three weekends, was dehydrated, factoring into his decision to start Peters.
“It's non-conference, and Reed hasn't really gotten the opportunity to play,” Blais said. “Kind of make or break, see what he can do. We've got (league games against) Miami and Colorado College after that, and then he goes home for Christmas. He's got to at least have an opportunity, and he's looked good. He's improved at a fast rate.”
Michigan scored two quick goals early in the second period.
The first was on a power play, as Boo Nieves blocked an attempted clear by Brian O'Rourke and put a shot on goal, setting up Andrew Copp for the rebound goal just 54 seconds into the period.
Then Phil Di Giuseppe had the puck on a 2-on-0 breakaway and didn't need any help, stickhandling around Peters for the putaway at 2:43.
It looked bleak for the Mavs, but they got back within 2-1 as Justin Parizek dug the puck out of the corner and got it to James Polk, who walked along the goal line and jammed the puck through the 5-hole (between the legs) of Racine at the post with 14:47 left in the second period.
“Big game from the P line,” Blais said of the fourth line of Parizek, Polk and Aaron Pearce. “We still need a little more out of our top guys. If we're going to be a successful team, we need our top guys playing at the top of their game, and right now it's a little hit-and-miss. It's spotty.”
Michigan re-established its two-goal lead while short-handed, as JT Compher led a 2-on-1 breakaway, kept the puck and scored at 13:39.
Again UNO wasn't down for long, as just 30 seconds later O'Rourke scored his first goal of the season — and second of his career — on a shot from the point through a screen that included Pearce to make it 3-2.
“It was a great shift by Parizek, Polk and Pearce,” O'Rourke said. “They were working it down low and caused their forward to sink down a little bit. They got the puck out to me, and Pearce is a big body in front of the net — he took the goalie's eyes away from him. I just let a quick wrister go, and I don't think he saw it until it was already past him.”
O'Rourke was plus-2 for the game and plus-3 for the weekend, putting him at a team-best plus-6 for the season. Parizek was also plus-2 Saturday and plus-3 for the weekend while picking up three assists. Pearce and Polk were plus-1 each night.
UNO put 22 shots on goal in the third period and outshot the Wolverines 43-31.
“We have to take Saturday games like we had lost the night before, come out with the same mentality and take it to them,” Montpetit said. “I think the first and second period we were a little relaxed, played like we knew we were going to win instead of playing for the win. Toward the end of the third period we realized they were leading. We got the goal and could have buried two or three more.”
Ultimately, the late push wasn't enough to overcome the earlier errors, the understandable loss in edge after a series-opening win and a couple of bad bounces.
“We didn't have quite as much intensity,” Blais said. “But playing the No. 2 team in the country the way we did tonight, I think we're all optimistic for the future.”
» Blais said Massa would probably start Friday against No. 8 Miami (Ohio).
» Leading goal-scorer Josh Archibald limped off the ice with a left knee injury midway through the second period, but he missed very little time. Blais said Archibald’s knee was bruised.