Skip-Bo > Uno ... just sayin.
The University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks visit the Sullivan Arena this weekend for only the 2nd meeting ever between the teams. UNO participated in the 2006 Nye Frontier Classic here in Anchorage and played UAA to a 2-2 tie.
That was when UNO was in the CCHA and weren't coached by Dean Blais. On that night, Josh Lunden and Kevin Clark provided the goals for UAA while the only Maverick to score was Scott Parse. No doubt UNO folks think they won that game since there was a shootout in it to determine the tournament champion. There'll be no shootout this weekend.
Mavericks II come into Anchorage as a bit of a surprise in their first WCHA season. They were picked by many (including me) to finish deep in the lower half of the league but currently sit in a tie for 3rd place with UMD just two points behind league leader UND and one point behind 2nd place DU. UND fans, DU fans, UMD fans and even Wisconsin fans will therefore likely be pulling hard for UAA this weekend.
Perhaps what most of us that picked UNO to finish low didn't take into consideration was Dean Blais' uncanny ability to consistently get the most of players under his tutalege. Looking at their stats page one thing really jumps out at me. Just about every upperclassman on the team is contributing in a big way. There are six juniors and seniors who have played more than 20 games this season; five of them are the leading scorers for the team.
Even though this is Dean Blais' first year behind the helm the team is already in many ways his creation. In addition to it's graduating class of 7 players last season, UNO had 7 other players with eligibility remaining depart the team. So this season's Mavericks have a large contingent (11) of first year players. And that class has provided quite ample secondary scoring which has been key to UNO's success with 43 out of their 103 total goals. When you consider that an additional 12 goals have come from the sophomore class you begin to see that youth is just as much a driving force for this team's success as is the excellent production from it's upperclassmen.
The Mavericks are going to want to play run and gun hockey this weekend. The same Seawolves game plan we've seen most of the season should be an effective counter in general. Of course, the guys will have to once again play their best hockey to have success. All those key defensive tactics will need to be fully executed. The Seawolves will have to keep this opponent to as few shots as possible while again trying to find a way to get pucks into the UNO net.
UNO goalie John Faulkner looks to be pretty much a lock to play both games but I'd bet we see freshman Mike Taffe get a rare start. When WCHA teams take the big bad awful horrible long trip up here they use it as a team building event. And what says "team building" more than giving a rookie goaltender a chance to play? Just sayin ...
All in all, this will be a tough opponent for the Seawolves this weekend. Last weekend's failure to get any points out of the UND series has greatly diminished UAA's chances to host a home ice playoff series. Even if the Seawolves win out their remaining 4 games, it'll take some help from other teams to get that coveted last home ice spot. So in anticipation of UAA winning those last 4 WCHA games, you should be cheering for Bemidji State over CC this weekend, Wisconsin over Minnesota and UND over SCSU.