The second of a two-game bout between the Lobo hockey team and Colorado Mesa proved to be much more competitive at the Outpost Ice Arena on Saturday night.
New Mexico (6-0) took the win in the first game, outscoring Colorado Mesa 5-2. But the Mavericks looked to salvage a split before leaving Albuquerque, while the Lobos looked to protect home ice and remain unbeaten on the season.
Both teams came to play, as an aggressive first period had fans standing in their seats to catch the action.
The Mavericks got on the board first to take a 1-0 lead toward the middle of the first period, but the Lobo defense stepped up to match the strong Maverick offense, to even the score and eventually take the lead before the end of the opening period.
With about two minutes left in the first period, Jaxson Farnholtz fired a shot past the Colorado Mesa goalie and with time winding down, center Jarrod Ronquillo of UNM scored again to give the Lobos a 2-1 advantage at the end of the first.
The energy remained high as the second period commenced. The Mavericks held nothing back to match the physical game the Lobos displayed in the first period.
Colorado Mesa’s offense came to life, as it scored three goals in the second frame to wrestle the lead back from the Lobos.
The teams traded goals, as Colorado Mesa tied the game at 2-2 early on before the Lobos went back on top 3-2 after AJ Goff scored for UNM.
But the Mavericks finished by scoring the period’s final two goals to enter the final frame with a 4-3 advantage over the Lobos.
In the third period, the Lobos tried to ratchet up the intensity and the pace got more furious as time ticked away — knowing they would need an equalizer to have a chance to extend the game into overtime.
But the Mavericks fought hard, clinging to the one-goal lead while withstanding an offensive onslaught from the Lobos.
New Mexico fired shot after shot toward the net, but Colorado Mesa goalie Amanda Nold was up to the task, protecting her space and diffusing about five near-misses to keep the score 4-3 as the Mavericks waited for the final minutes of the game to elapse.
But New Mexico’s Graeme Chaisson was finally able to fire one past Nold, tying up the game at 4-4 to force overtime.
The game continued to be exciting as both teams tried to light the lamp before the overtime period ended and things would go to a shootout. The Lobos pulled through again though, finding a game-winner off the stick of defenseman Mackenzie Smith with about one minute remaining.
New Mexico escaped with the 5-4 overtime victory, the second such win on the season to improve to 6-0 overall and sweep the two-game set against Colorado Mesa.
The Lobo players rushed the ice to celebrate their furious comeback victory as head coach Grant Harvey followed his players, shaking his head and smiling.
“The Lobos had so much more heart than the other team, and that’s how we pulled it out,” Harvey said.
New Mexico did show a lot of heart, digging deep twice to overcome adversity. He went on to talk about how huge it was for Smith to step up and seize the moment.
Taking on the role of hero, Smith sealed the deal and delivered the knockout blow to put Colorado Mesa on its back. Harvey credited Smith as the player who "stepped up the most out of anyone on the team."
Smith seemed to suggest his team could have played better, saying the game was rough for a time, but appeared humble after helping lift his team to victory.
“We were really lucky to pull that one out,” he said. “We’re all working for the same goal, and that’s to win games, and I’m just lucky to be a part of it.”
It was a fight to the finish for the Lobo hockey team against a tough team that showed up to play on Saturday. The Lobos will remain at home to host the University of Colorado Colorado Springs on Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21 at the Outpost Ice Arena.
Alanie Rael is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers men’s and women’s skiing but also contributes content for football and hockey. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AllyRael.