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Mavs continue to struggle with penalty kill in weekend losses

Sports Editor

Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 16:12

HOckey

Photo by Nick Beaulieu/ The Gateway

Goalie Kirk Thompson, Brian Cooper and Dominic Zombo Friday night in the loss to Cornell

In the first ever meeting between Cornell University and University Nebraska-Omaha, Cornell swept UNO at home 5-3 Friday and 4-3 Saturday night at Century Link Center.

The two games marked the first series of the season for the Cornell Big Red, who are coming off a 15-16-3 record from last season.

The root of UNO’s struggles vs. Cornell, and for much of the season thus far has been the penalty kill. Head coach Dean Blais stressed the need to improve defense when down a man on power plays.

“The untimely penalties are breaking our back. On our key players, it disrupts the whole team,” Blais said.

In the first game UNO gave up three goals to power play and four the next night. Blais stressed eliminating the dumb penalties, as the Mavs seemed like they constantly had a player in the box in the third period Friday night when Cornell took the lead.  
“When the puck goes in the net, every penalty’s a bad penalty,” Blais said. “It’s one thing taking them, another one killing them. And we’ve got to kill them, we gotta kill them off.”

The Mavs have not had trouble getting shots on goal, totalling 40 on net Saturday to Cornell’s 13. It’s more a matter of being aggressive and quicker.

“We want to be aggressive and not stand, but when you’re aggressive and kind of moving you’re out of position, we need to move our feet and not allow them any time,” Blais said. “It’ll come.  40 shots on net is enough to win most games.”

The team expressed frustration, as they blew a 3-2 lead in the third period of the first game and scored a goal less than a second after the final horn of the third period sounded Saturday night, which would have tied the game. On top of this, they’ve out shot every opponent in every game except one thus far this season.

“We felt good, we battled. We played some pretty good hockey today. Just mental mistakes and penalties are killing us right now.  All we can do is learn from it,” Junior Dominic Zombo said.

Blais reiterated the same message.

“We’ll win 9 out of 10 games if we keep playing that way. When we got within 1, I thought we were going to find a way to find a way to tie that game up, the guys believed it on the bench too.”

Last season UNO allowed 37 goals while down on power play, through six games the Mavs have already allowed 15.

“We still have the inability to be effective on the penalty kill, which we hopefully will fix. We have to fix. Because this tape will go out to our opponents and they’ll be working the same power play as Cornell worked tonight so we’ve got a lot of work to do on our penalty kill.” Blais said.

The team also gave credit to Cornell power play execution.

“Not to take anything away from them, they had a good power play. It just comes down to our 3 guys or our 4 guys working harder than them. And playing to our systems and being mentally tough,” Zombo said.

Cornell is a premier college hockey team, nonetheless the penalty kill is something that cannot continue to be this ineffective.

“That can’t be our excuse; to get scored on almost every power play, we’ve got to be better,” senior Johnnie Searfoss
The series was gritty, as Cornell was a much taller and bigger team than the Mavs to go along with plenty of trash talk and an eventual scrum that erupted after the final horn Saturday night with half the team fighting before being broken up.

“An Ivy League education and that’s the only word they know,” A Cornell photographer uttered with a grin after a colorful array of f-bombs from one of the their players.

Overall the team was shaken after the loss Friday night, but were able to respond well Saturday and feel a little better, despite still falling short.

“I liked the compete level of the team, and if you don’t have that you’re not going anywhere in this league. Obviously we’ve got the toughest schedule of any division one team,” Blais said.

The schedule includes Denver next weekend on the road. Although sitting on a losing record, the Mavs have time to bandage the holes and get back to winning form.

 “It’s a long season. It’s not where you start it’s where you finish,” Searfoss said. “The most important thing is learning from your mistakes and getting better every weekend. I think the positive is we bounced back and battled tonight and we’ll take that to Denver this weekend.”

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