Ice up, Skates down
New conference, new team, new season. Mav hockey speaks about whats to come this season a Media Day.
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Sunday, December 15, 2013 17:12
The fury won’t be leashed much longer. University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey returns this week for a new season in a new conference. Playing in the WCHA conference for the last three years, the Mavs look to make their entrance into the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC), full of tougher competition.
“I think it’s exciting starting something new, we’re happy to be a part of the NCHC with what it brings to the table and all the good teams that it has and how competitive that the league is,” said Ryan Walters, senior. “I think we’re excited to have new rivalries and have a good year.”
With teams like Miami, North Dakota and St. Cloud, who sit atop the conference and who all rank within the Top 10 USA Today/ American Hockey Magazine Top 15 poll, the stage continues to get bigger for the Mavs.
“Obviously this is considered one of the best leagues in the nation, it’s definitely something special to be a part of and we’re all looking forward to it,” said Josh Archibald, junior.
The Mavs placed last at eighth in the conference preseason ranking by voters. A ranking that had the sixth and eighth place teams separated by two total votes.
“It’s only up from here, someone has to be last in this conference and fortunately this gives us a lot of motivation,” said Ryan Massa, redshirt sophomore goalie,. “We’re really excited to get this ball rolling and were really expecting great things with this team.”
Senior Captain Johnnie Searfoss finds little importance in it.
“I know our first year in the WCHA we were voted eighth and ended up third, so you can’t really read much into preseason polls what really matters in the end of the season,” Searfoss said.
Walters, who returns for his fourth year on the team, finds motivation in the ranking.
“I think it’s exciting starting something new, we’re happy to be a part of the NCHC with what it brings to the table and all the good teams that it has and how competitive that the league is,” Walters said. “I think we’re excited to have new rivalries and have a good year.”
Walters, coming off his All-American season is truly optimistic about the talent this year’s team has.
“To be honest, I think this is one of the best team’s that we’ve had, and that says something with us being voted to finish last,” Walters said. “But the freshman that we have coming in and the depth that we have with our forwards, but we have guys like Jake Guentzel coming in who was rookie of the year in the NSHL. When you have depth and guys coming in who can fill those spots and fill that void I’m pretty excited to see what we have.”
Guentzel is one of the many young forwards now on the Mavs who will help to fill the void left behind by Matt White. Guentzel had 73 points for the Sioux City Musketeers last year and is ranked one of the best young players in the country by some.
“You can’t really say what contribution the freshman will make and the incoming recruits but we’ve done as well as anyone in the country at recruiting and two of the last three years we’ve had the number 1 recruiting class according to some people,” Dean Blais, head coach, said. “And you never know how that’s going to go so overtime I think we’re going to be as good as anyone else in the country, and then all the other places.”
Scoring is one area that the Mavs believe they have covered coming into the season.
“Everyone knows that Ryan Walters, Zombo and Archibald might be the best line in college hockey, they’re going to get their points, they’re going to get a lot of attention,” Blais said. “I’m not worried about scoring. We’re going to be exciting to watch, we’re going to be fast.”
More uncertainty is towards defense, but the Mavs have faith in Massa, who’s made strides to be the goal stopper the Mavs need.
“[Massa] went up to Minnesota hockey camp with some pro guys this summer, so I’m not too worried about our goal tending situation,” Walters said. “But we’re going to put a lot on his back and we’re going to ride it as far as we can, but I think he’ll do just fine.”
Massa is looking to string together a full season after coming off one which he was inactive for the first semester of play. His motivation and work input is there.
“For me it’s practice, practice, practice, coming everyday getting a lot of shots a lot of repetitions, working with Todd Jones our goal tending coach every week, and for me my job is to be better than the day before and if I’m able to do that each and every day then I thoroughly expect us to have a great post season run and be in a position that this school hasn’t been in,” Massa said.