Right where they want to be:
UNO's recent shootout win and thoughts on the season at mid-point.
Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 26, 2014 14:01
The University Nebraska-Omaha hockey team enters the near midpoint in their season in a much better position than they were thought to have been in. Not only does the USCHO have UNO ranked 16 as of Dec. 2, the Mavs recently entered a shootout and came out on top Saturday against Colorado College to rebound from their Friday night loss.
The Mavs were saved again by none other than Josh Archibald. The junior scored the game tying goal in the third period to make it 3-3 and scored the winner in the shootout. A shootout victory in the NCHC gets you two points.
The Mavs now sit at 2nd in the conference with 17 points behind St. Cloud State who has 19. They won’t hit the ice again until Jan. 3, when they face New Hampshire that weekend. This near month-long layoff can make or break the season depending on how it’s handled.
“Certainly, with all that time off in Christmas, you can lose everything. You can lose your conditioning,” Blais said. “Last year some of the guys went home for 10 days, 11 days and never put the skates on. Especially for goal tenders, goal tenders have to see shots every day or every other day for sure. The rest is good but you know you can get out of shape.”
Experienced senior Brock Montpetit has been there before and knows of the trap that the long layoff can present.
“I try and stay active as much as possible,” Montpetit said. “Back home I have keys to the rink from right down the street to my house where I can go there pretty much every day, and push myself as much as I can and just stay active where as if you rest it can really make you take some steps back.”
The Mavs road game against New Hampshire is the most distant game the Mavs will face in the regular season. Despite having such a large home ice advantage, the team sees the pros in road games.
“Getting all the guys on the plane and the bus heading somewhere, it’s fun. It’s something that not everyone can do. These are all our brothers and going and staying in a hotel and staying in a bus for 6, 7, 8, hours is fun, it gets everyone excited,” Montpetit said.
Blais believes the road is when you can see the true colors and become unified as a team.
“Sometimes being on the road is good, it brings the team together, we’re together right now,” Blais said. “This will be another challenge, can everyone make another step forward? At Denver we didn’t have any players that we’re really a detriment to the team and that sometimes happens. They play a little more inspired at home in front of the parents, fans or friends and students but if the team’s going to be a championship team you’ve got to win on the road and we’ll see if we are.”
As we approach the midpoint of the hockey season after three months of play, the Mavs have been thrilling. Sitting at third in the NCHC for most goals scored in total play at 52, UNO has had three overtime games and five games with a scoring margin of one.
“I think we’re a fun team to watch, we’re fast and we move the puck real well,” Blais said. “I think when someone pays money and comes to the Century Link Center to watch us play they’re not disappointed win or lose. They know that we’re giving out best game in and game out.”
The theme preached before the season was depth, and the plethora of play makers on UNO have proven themselves thus far this season. With four solid lines, when the Mavs are firing on all cylinders it’s tough to stop them.
“They’ve all taken their turns at being real good, the difference of winning and losing making a difference in the game,” Blais said. “That’s why we’re sitting where we are right now. Everyone’s contributed, everyone’s on board, everyone’s on the same page and it [took] a while to gel.”
Two of the shining young guns for UNO include freshmen Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel, both of which play on the same line with Montpetit as of late. The three have been as good as they can be following the main line of Josh Archibald, Dominic Zombo and Ryan Walters.
“It’s been great. We got put together two weeks ago and we’ve been clicking ever since,” Montpetit said. “These younger guys may not be as consistent as a junior or senior but I’m staying on them every day to make sure they do their little things and stay consistent.”
The Mavs schedule doesn’t ease up as no. 2 in the country St. Cloud State will come into Omaha Jan 31 and Feb 1 and that’s following the Mavs road series vs. Miami (Oh) who will surely want to avenge the prior sweep.
Despite a somewhat shaky start UNO sits ready to enter the new year the same as they ended the old one, ready to compete, win and get to the post season..