GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The modern version of the Scottish poet Robert Burns comes to mind when thinking about the topsy-turvey hockey season winding down for the defending NCAA champion University of North Dakota.
"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,'' is the version of the quote from Burns that has survived well over 200 year since he penned it.
Despite team meetings between the Fighting Hawks hockey team and coaches beginning at 10 a.m. today, plans discussed in those various meetings certainly went awry for UND in a 3-0 National Collegiate Hockey Conference blanking by Omaha in front of a sellout of 11,922 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
With UND trying to grab home ice for the league playoffs beginning in two weeks and improve its positioning in the vital Pairwise Rankings used to select the 16-team NCAA field, the Fighting Hawks planned to build on Friday's 6-4 win over the Mavericks.
Instead, the worst defensive team in the NCHC handed UND its fifth shutout loss of the season by limiting to just seven shots on goal for the first two periods, including just one in the second period.
Omaha goalie Evan Weninger turned back all 22 shots he faced to post the shutout and senior Austin Ortega spaked the Mavs offense with a goal and two assists to earn Omaha the split and one win in four meetings with UND this season.
UND tied with Omaha for the fourth place in the NCHC -- the last spot for home ice in the first round of league playoffs and one point ahead of St. Cloud State -- with two games remaining for all league teams.
The flat performance was a bit shocking to UND coaches and players.
"We talked about it all day,'' UND coach Brad Berry said. "We got in here at 10 in the morning and through the whole day preparing for meetings and things like that, we talked about the urgency and taking another step forward, home ice (for playoffs), Pairwise and everything. It's not about pressure. We're all about big games and playing in them and knowing what the impact of the games are.''
Yet UND lacked any cohesive play through the game, even though it mustered 15 shots on net in the third period, more than double the total of the first two.
Goals by David Pope on a power play one-timer at 8:45 of the first period and a wrister by Riley Alfred at 5:43 of the third period staked the Mavericks to a 2-0 lead before Ortega clinched it with an open-net goal wilth 2:01 remaining in the game.
"From the drop of the puck, that was a hungry team on the other side, and we didn't play as a group,'' Berry said. "I thought there were some good efforts, I thought the guys worked . . . but we didn't work together. We have to work together as a team to get the job done.''
Or, as Berry said, UND was often five guys going in different directions.
Weninger had a relatively easy time of it in his shutout win. UND's closest call came when freshman Ludvig Hoff hit the far goal post when the score was still 2-0, his shot kicking back through the crease, but staying out of the net, as confirmed by video review by officials.
UND has two NCHC games remaining, next weekend at Miami of Ohio, the last chance to wrap up home ice for the league playoffs and bolster the Pairwise Rankings. UND had slipped to 16th in the Pairwise as this story was filed, and would miss out on an NCAA berth if it can't improve that ranking in the next several weeks.
"I don't know about time running out,'' Berry said. "I know it is winding down in games. . . . we've been doing well on the road (6-6-1 ovrall). We just have to make sure we play well as a team from the drop of the puck.''
That didn't happen tonight.
"I thought our team was a little bit flat coming out,'' said Johnny Simonson, who had UND's lone shot on goal in the second period. "I don't think the energy level was as high at it needed to be.''
"We have a short season left,'' Ausmus said. "We have to bring it every night. We can't take any shortcuts to get there. Tonight, I think we didn't play with enough urgency. With the season on the line for us, basically, we didn't bring enough.''
UND fell to 9-12-1-1 in NCHC play and 16-14-3 overall while Omaha improved to 9-11-2 and 16-13-5.
Game notes: Ortega led all players in shots on goal with 5 ... Omaha was 1-3 on the power play with 6 shots, UND 0-5 with 5 shots ... Brock Boeser, Tucker Poolman, Christian Wolanin and Joel Janatuinen all had 3 shots on goal for UND ... Named the three stars by the media were Weninger, Ortega and Pope, in that order ... Tyson Jost won 13 of 21 faceoffs to pace UND while Tyler Vesel was 11 of 16 for Omaha.