Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 17:10
When the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) released its preseason poll, UNO was surprisingly left out of the top of the standings. The Mavs will start 2012 with the same expectations that came with their first trip through the conference in 2010.
But that season, the Mavs proved the doubters wrong, finished third and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Those expectations pushed voters to expect more out of UNO in 2011, tabbing the Mavs as a fourth-place team.
UNO stumbled the last two weeks of the season and ended in seventh, outside of home ice for the WCHA playoffs. This season, media voters only expect eighth out of the Mavs.
But maybe 2010 proved flying under the radar isn’t such a bad thing.
“It’s a little bit easier. Obviously there’s not too much pressure on you, and maybe a little bit of motivation behind it too,” senior Brent Gwidt said. “I don’t think much of our attitude is going to change.”
On Oct. 1, Gwidt was announced as UNO’s captain for the upcoming season. Fellow senior John Faulkner and junior Matt White were chosen as the alternate captains.
Gwidt, Faulkner and White are known quantities. Gwidt is a hard worker, Faulkner has been one of the program’s best goaltenders and White is one of the best offensive threats in the WCHA and in college hockey.
When you add those three to eight other juniors that have all played major roles since being freshmen, there’s a lot to like. “We’re always gonna be that team that’s working hard and trying to be a fast team,” Gwidt said. “I don’t think it’s gonna change much of our style or anything like that. But it’s definitely gonna have a little bit of motivation.”
The unknown quantities are which players will step up to replace the early departures of Terry Broadhurst and Jayson Megna. Broadhurst and Megna were second and third on the team in scoring.
As a junior Broadhurst scored 16 goals and added 20 assists while Megna put in 13 and had 18 helpers in his first year.
Shortly after the season ended it was announced that Broadhurst was leaving the program to pursue a minor league contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. Megna, a member of the WCHA’s All-Freshmen Team, announced he was leaving for a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in early August.
As a pair Broadhurst and Megna accounted for 24 percent of all the scoring on last year’s squad. That could be the reason the voters weren’t so high on the Mavs.
“I think it may have been our end result last year,” Gwidt said. “They (media voters) know we lost Broadhurst and Megna but we got a lot of guys coming back who are gonna have big years.”
Gwidt said he thinks some of those guys will be James Polk, Dominic Zombo, Josh Archibald and Andrew Schmit. The freshmen that are now sophomores and sophomores that are now juniors have to be the key Gwidt says.
In 2010 the freshmen class that includes White and players like Ryan Walters, Brock Montpetit and Andrej Sustr put up 119 points. Thus, it was seen as quite a drop off when 2011’s freshmen class added less than half that total.
However, Head Coach Dean Blais has said his recruiting class from two years ago is a one in a generation type of class. The 57 points out of last year’s class is more the norm.
The trouble last season wasn’t that the freshmen couldn’t duplicate the numbers of the freshmen before them. More of it had to do with players having sophomore slumps.
With the exception of White, most of this year’s juniors only marginally improved their numbers from 2010 to 2011. White scored 15 points more, Sustr had an additional 8, and Walters and Young scored two more.
But Montpetit went from 21 points down to 17, Johnnie Searfoss dropped his total by a point and Zahn Raubenheimer went down by 11.
Gwidt raised his point total from six to 15.
“We’re definitely gonna have to chip in,” Gwidt said about he and White taking on more responsibility as captains. “I’m definitely more of a leader by example. Whitey is big offensive guy, [he] does a lot leading by example and vocally but it’s also as upperclassmen, juniors and seniors, we’re gonna be depended on to make big plays and score goals as well.”
Proving they’re better than an eight-place preseason ranking could be one source of motivation for the season. Another could be finally making the Final Five in St. Paul, Minn.
UNO has fallen short in the WCHA playoffs the last two seasons and failed to qualify for the conference’s premiere event. With the Mavs leaving for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in 2013, this is the last chance UNO has to be on the WCHA’s biggest stage.
“We obviously wanna get to the Final Five in Minneapolis,” Gwidt said. “As far as goals as far as how many wins or how far we wanna make it, we haven’t really set those. I think we’re just gonna take it week by week. Obviously we’re expecting to win every Friday and Saturday so it’s gonna start from there. That’s gonna set you up for a successful season.”