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UND beats Omaha on late Jackson Keane goal

Jasper Weatherby celebrates his first-period goal with linemate Dixon Bowen on Friday in Omaha's Baxter Arena. Photo by Kent Sievers/Omaha World Herald1 / 4
Matt Kiersted takes down Omaha forward Taylor Ward on Friday night. Photo by Kent Sievers/Omaha World Herald2 / 4
UND forward Cole Smith goes flying after a collision with Omaha defenseman John Schuldt on Friday. Photo by Kent Sievers/Omaha World Herald3 / 4
UND goalie Adam Scheel makes a save on Omaha forward Kevin Conley during Friday's game in Baxter Arena. Photo by Kent Sievers/Omaha World Herald4 / 4

OMAHA, Neb. -- There was an omen Thursday.

At the end of UND’s practice in Baxter Arena, the team held its weekly shootout drill. It took longer than normal, but freshman Jackson Keane finally ended it with a pretty goal. His teammates covered him in snow to celebrate.

On Friday night, Keane came through in the end again with a pretty, winning goal -- only this one was a bit more important and he received a much warmer celebration from his teammates.

Keane’s snipe on a three-on-two rush with just 1:50 left in the third period gave UND a third-straight dramatic victory in the span of eight days -- this one a 4-3 win over Omaha.

Last weekend, the Fighting Hawks swept Colorado College with back-to-back overtime wins, and Friday’s game against the Mavericks appeared like it was headed for the extra session, too.

But UND forward Collin Adams led a rush up the right side late in the third. When he got to the right circle, forward Rhett Gardner drove the net to create space and Adams dished a perfect pass to Keane, who was the trailer on the rush.

The rookie from Winnipeg snapped a shot past the glove of Evan Weninger for his second goal of the season and his third point of the night.

“It feels good. I mean, it’s been a while,” said Keane, whose only point this season was a goal against Alaska Anchorage on Nov. 23. “That’s a big goal for our team and it’s always nice to contribute.”

UND improved to 12-9-1 overall and 6-5 in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play, where the Fighting Hawks are suddenly just a mere two points out of second place.

They also jumped from No. 23 to No. 18 in the Pairwise Rankings, which determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field.

“It’s three games in a row of finding a way to win,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “I think we’ve learned a little bit throughout this last stretch here. And again, tomorrow, that’s a huge game. Tonight means nothing if we don’t get after it tomorrow.”

UND will go for its fourth win in a row and second-straight sweep at 7:07 p.m. Saturday.

The last time UND won three-straight one-goal games was during the 2013-14 season -- and the circumstances were ever-so-similar.

In that season, UND suffered a bad 5-2 loss at home to St. Lawrence that launched much hand-wringing from fans and put UND at 4-7-1.

But UND found a way to win three-straight, down-to-the-wire games -- one against St. Lawrence and two at Western Michigan. That launched a 10-game unbeaten streak and a second-half run that ended with a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.

This Fighting Hawks team had a similar pair of bad losses at Canisius, launching familiar hand-wringing from the fans. But, just like in 2013-14, they found a way to win three close games in a row. They hope that it will launch a similar second-half run.

“This is the time of year where the locker room takes over with leadership,” Berry said. “We’ve left, throughout the first half of the season, some points on the table in situations where we should have closed games out or scored more goals. I think, right now, guys are just saying, ‘Hey, let’s just play for each other.’”

UND’s fourth line came up big against the Mavericks.

Keane finished with three points. His linemate, East Grand Forks Senior High graduate Dixon Bowen, had two assists. And their center, freshman Jasper Weatherby, snapped a nine-game point drought with a deflection goal in the first period.

Defenseman Matt Kiersted and center Nick Jones (five-game point streak) also scored for UND, which once again outshot an opponent by double digits -- 37-20.

“I think it’s just a belief in each other on the team,” Kiersted said. “Everyone believes we’re going to get the next goal and win the game. There are no doubters. We’re all on the same page.”

UND dominated shots on goal and scoring chances in the first two periods but failed to pull away from Omaha (6-13-2, 2-8-1 NCHC). The Mavericks used their league-leading 25.5 percent power play to score twice, covering up the fact that they registered just four even-strength shots on goal in the opening 40 minutes.

At 5:34 of the third period, Omaha freshman Tyler Weiss, a Colorado Avalanche draft pick, scored his first goal of the season to complete Omaha’s rally from down two goals and tie the game 3-3.

It marked the third-straight game that UND had give up a two-goal lead. But once again, the Fighting Hawks made a play to win the game in the end.

It was Ludvig Hoff and Jordan Kawaguchi in overtime last weekend. It was Keane on Friday.

“A lot of excitement and a little bit of relief,” Kiersted said. “We went to two overtimes last weekend, so it’s nice to not have to go to one Friday night here.”

The drama wasn’t over after Keane’s goal, though.

Omaha had two Grade-A chances to tie the game -- one on clean breakaway by Denver transfer Kevin Conley with 1:20 to go and another top-of-the-crease chance for leading-scorer Mason Morelli with just eight seconds left.

But goalie Adam Scheel, who made his eighth-straight start, came up big on both of them.

“That’s the battle level that he has,” Berry said. “One of the things with Adam is that he’s so calm and composed in there that after the third one went in there, he even got stronger. That’s a guy who went through a whole year of hockey in Penticton in the BCHL, going through those hard times and a little bit of adversity and I think that’s showing now.”

UND 4, OMAHA 3

First period -- 1. UND, Matt Kiersted 5 (Dixon Bowen 2, Jackson Keane 1) 2:40; 2. OMA, Zach Jordan 7 (Fredrik Olofsson 15, Mason Morelli 10) 4:26 (pp); 3. Nick Jones 4 (Jacob Bernard-Docker 10, Rhett Gardner 10) 10:09 (pp)

Second period -- 4. UND, Jasper Weatherby 2 (Keane 2, Bowen 3) 3:40; 5. OMA, Ryan Galt 3 (Jordan 13, Olofsson 15) 7:27 (pp)

Third period -- 6. OMA, Tyler Weiss 1 (Kevin Conley 5) 5:34; 7. UND, Keane 2 (Collin Adams 4) 18:10

Goalie saves -- UND: Adam Scheel 3-7-7 -- 17 (3 GA); OMA: Evan Weninger 10-11-12 -- 33 (4 GA)

Penalties -- Cole Smith, UND, tripping, 3:09 first; Jordan, OMA, hooking, 9:45 first; Olofsson, OMA, tripping, 1:37 second; Kiersted, UND, tripping, 5:55 second; Jones, UND, slashing, 17:04 second; Mark Senden, UND, tripping, :53 third; Nate Knoepke, OMA, hooking, 14:54 third; Ludvig Hoff, UND, delay of game, 14:54 third; Weiss, OMA, checking from behind major, 18:43 third; Weiss, OMA, game misconduct, 18:43 third

Penalties-minutes -- UND 5-10, OMA 5-21

Power plays -- UND 1-3, OMA 2-4

Attendance -- 5,727

Referees -- Scott Bokal and Gino Binda

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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