Tuesday, January 15, 2019

UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes - Jan. 15, 2019


UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, junior defenseman Ryan Jones, and senior goalie Evan Weninger answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Jan. 15, 2019.   

Gabinet & Co. fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series at Denver University on Jan. 11-12, and the upcoming series against North Dakota at Baxter Arena on Jan. 18-19. 

If you would like to watch the hockey news conference (starting at the 24:40 mark), you can do so here.

ON THE SERIES IN DENVER

GABINET: “Obviously, a heartbreaking couple losses in Denver there, with allowing three goals in regulation on the weekend, and coming out with no points. Usually if you do that, you’re going to be successful there. So, heartbreaking loss against Denver, but a lot of steps in the right direction for the team and looking forward to an always-challenging North Dakota here at home.”

ASSESS THE DU SERIES IN THE LARGER SCHEME OF THINGS, KNOWING YOU CAN PLAY REALLY WELL IN A SERIES AND COME OUT WITHOUT ANY POINTS...

GABINET: “It’s your mindset. You’ve just gotta be mentally tough. You’ve gotta have that good mindset. You just feel for the players who just gave everything they had both nights for 60 minutes. A little lull Friday night in the second period. But really taking steps in the right direction there. Obviously, I thought Evan Weninger was our best player both nights on the weekend there, giving us a chance to win.”

GABINET: “Those are heartbreakers. You’re doing everything, you’re a minute away from getting a split in Denver, and being 3-1 after the Christmas break.” 

GABINET: “When you’re playing against the number three team in the country, they’re gonna get those breaks sometimes, and we’ve gotta keep earning our chances to get the breaks eventually.”

HOW GOOD WAS EVAN WENINGER’S WEEKEND?

GABINET: “He was great. I thought he was our best player on the ice, and anytime your goalie is playing like that, you’ve got a chance to win hockey games.”

WILL YOU GET SOME MISSING PIECES BACK IN THE LINEUP THIS WEEK?

GABINET: “We’ll see here. It’s still early in the week, so we’ll see with our trainer how guys are looking up, but I’ll bet you we’ll be very similar to our lineup in Denver.”

WILL SPINNER BE BACK THIS WEEK?

GABINET: “Probably more of a Wednesday/Thursday decision there.”

GABINET: “He’s back practicing. He’s back on the ice now. Primeau is not skating yet. I think Klehr-sy (Jordan Klehr), he might skate later in the week here. So we’ll see.”

ON THE UPCOMING SERIES WITH NORTH DAKOTA...

GABINET: “I think we’ve got a pretty good rivalry with North Dakota. Just watching back their last four games, they’ve been playing well. I think they’ve outshot their opponents every night almost two-to-one. They’re an always-challenging team that is extremely talented.”

IS THE STYLE WE SAW IN DENVER THE STYLE THE TEAM NEEDS TO PLAY?

GABINET: “I thought Friday night in Denver, the first period was the best period of our season. I really thought we came out on our toes ready to play.”

GABINET: “It’s funny, just during the week in practice, too, the coaches were talking about our execution level. It’s been fun for us. To me, that’s one of the favorite things about coaching, is watching guys get better — both on and off the ice.”

GABINET: “Against North Dakota, we have to continue that same mentality. We have to execute early. We want to play on our toes, and we want to play in the offensive zone if we can. One of the good things I thought we did against Denver by limiting our chance in the defensive zone because we were a little more aggressive offensively. We hunted pucks and made it hard for them to get out of their zone.” 

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT HUNTING PUCKS, IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S NICE TO HAVE FORWARD KEVIN CONLEY IN THE LINEUP. YOUR THOUGHTS ON CONLEY...

GABINET: “I thought he was one of our best players on the weekend — by far his best weekend as a Maverick, in my opinion. Obviously, he’s got a little extra fire in his belly when he’s playing at his old team, and you know he’s really taking steps in practice, and now that’s starting to show in the games. The good thing is, now the bar is raised for where we expect him to play every weekend, and how we expect him to play every weekend. He’s capable of doing that.” 

GABINET: “I think Weiss, Conley — I thought Galt was strong — I think, you know, you’re starting see some of these guys’ best hockey so far in the season. The key is, as we talked about with the team yesterday, to keep that consistent level. It’s easy to be good once in a while. It’s very difficult to be good consistently. They’re putting the work in right now to make that consistent.”

GABINET: “It’s really nice to see those guys take big steps this past weekend; I know they’re going to be good this weekend for us, too.”

THE PLAYERS HAD BEEN FOCUSED ON SUCCEEDING AT DENVER THIS SEASON. AS RIVALRIES DEVELOP, IS THE FOCUS THERE AGAIN THIS WEEK FOR NORTH DAKOTA COMING TO TOWN?

GABINET: “I don’t like too many of the teams in our league [laughs]. You’re right, though, it’s just so competitive. I thought Denver... I really wanted to beat those guys, too.”

GABINET: “Obviously, yeah, North Dakota — we play them four times every year. They’re the travel team. We only get CC twice this year, I think, and Duluth twice. Obviously, we’re always up there, they’re always down here. It’s usually a good atmosphere in the building and stuff. I think guys are excited to get after it here and they play hard. They’ve got a couple first-round draft picks on their team. I think they’ve got seven NHL draft picks. They’re always a tough opponent, too, so it’s an easy game to get up for.”

HOW HAVE THE NEWCOMERS ON THE ROSTER BEEN COMING ALONG?

GABINET: “If you look again at our D-corps, in Denver, on Friday night there, Knoepke — he’s pretty much a freshman, right, I think he played one game before he got to us [Editor's note, he played two games for Minnesota], he’s played four minutes of college hockey before he got to us, went back to juniors — so he’s pretty much a freshman. Then you got Smallidge, who’s a freshman, then you got John Schuldt who’s a freshman, then you got Lawson McDonald who only played I think 4 or 5 games for us last year — so that’s four D-men that have very, very limited experience, that are all playing right now, and doing well, and they’re getting better. And again, I think that’s a testament to our staff, and to their work ethic.”

GABINET: “Then, up front you’ve got... Conley is a transfer, you’ve got Weiss, you’ve got Taylor Ward — some guys that are taking some small steps in the right direction as well.”

DO YOU THINK NCHC FOES YOU PLAYED EARLIER IN THE SEASON WILL BE SURPRISED HOW MUCH BETTER THE TEAM IS?

GABINET: “Yeah, I think so. I think it’s always something I take personally as a coach. When you’re playing a team the second time in the season, are you improving? Again, to me, I’ve kind of thrown out the ‘results-based’ for right now. Like you said, with our schedule and with our conference, you just can’t get results-focused, because it doesn’t always tell the tales. As Dave [Ahlers] was just pointing out with the media stats here for our last 10 games. To me, you’ve got to show improvement, you’ve got to get better. Because you’re getting a second chance.”


PLAYER TAKEAWAYS FROM DU SERIES... PLAYING AS WELL AS THEY DID WITHOUT GETTING ANY CONFERENCE POINTS...

RYAN JONES: “I think we played really well. I think we took strides as a team, all together. It does hurt coming out of there with zero points, but right now we just try to take the positive out of that and move forward.”

EVAN WENINGER: “Yeah, same kind of thing. I mean, that’s probably our best team weekend of the season. Obviously, they’re the number three or four team in the country — whatever it is — and it shows. They’re well coached, they play hard, they do all the little things right. I mean, we were right there with them, losing by one on Friday night and losing in overtime on Saturday night. It’s just one bounce either way could have changed the game completely. So we’re just focusing on the positives and kind of taking some momentum into this weekend.” 

FOR WENINGER: WAS THE OT LOSS TOUGH TO TAKE CONSIDERING YOUR HISTORY PLAYING AT MAGNESS?

WENINGER: “A little bit, yeah. It was pretty frustrating. Kind of a tough loss on Saturday there. Had the feeling in the third period like maybe we were going to shut this down. We were going to finally get that first win against Denver. But, you know, they’re a resilient team, they’re a good team. Countless times I’ve seen that they’ve come back in the last couple minutes. So, it obviously wasn’t a fun way to go down. But, I mean, we showed the rest of the league and the country that we can play with those teams.”

WHAT SORT OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS DOES IT TAKE TO RISE UP WEEK AFTER WEEK KNOWING YOU HAVE TO PLAY AT A HIGH LEVEL AND A SOLID PERFORMANCE MIGHT NOT RESULT IN CONFERENCE POINTS?

WENINGER: “It’s tough. It is the best conference in college hockey. And you know that, no matter how good you play, you still might not come out with that win. But, you also gotta look at it like every win that we get means something. Every team that we beat in our conference, it’s an accomplishment and we’ve just gotta keep pushing through.”

JONES: “Every team in our conference is always going to be a hard fought game. And, I think, when it comes down to it, it’s whoever capitalizes on the mistakes. From this past weekend, you saw that they’re good at capitalizing on our mistakes. So we’ve just got to put that towards our game and we’ll come out with two wins.” 

AS POSITIVE AS THE ALASKA ANCHORAGE SERIES WAS, DID IT MEAN MORE TO PLAY A “DEFENSIVE RESPONSIBLE” TYPE SERIES AGAINST DENVER? 

JONES: “From the start of this season, we’ve kind of been struggling defensively. Sometimes it takes those weekends to focus, and have a good defensive weekend in order to bring momentum and continue to build that as the year goes on. I think Anchorage helped with that, and you could see we were just improving against Denver — who is a top three team in the nation. We’re focusing a lot on the defensive aspect, and I think it’s only going to get better from here.”

WENINGER: “I think the Anchorage one was a big stepping stone for us. Obviously, it wasn’t the same challenge that we see in our conference, but we kind of used the confidence from that, and the things we learned, and kind of worked on it throughout the week and week-and-a-half there that we had for the bye week. And I think everybody kind of bought in and we really put it all together there in the D-zone. I mean, everybody was selling out, blocking shots, doing the right things, getting pucks out. We weren’t having turnovers inside our blue like we’d had in the first half there.”

WENINGER: “It helps when the team is doing everything they can to help me out and they have confidence in me, and helping build me up, and it gives me a chance to feel good about myself, and get myself that confidence to kind of play with a little bit of a swagger, and a little bit of an edge on my game. So, it was nice to kind of get the Anchorage one out of the way the first week back. And then, going into Denver, it was nice to kind of lock down and have two good full-team games, and two pretty good personal games.”

WITH ALL THE NEWCOMERS ON DEFENSE, DID IT TAKE YOU A LONG TIME TO GEL AS A UNIT?

JONES: “Honestly, it didn’t take as long as we thought. You heard Galt say at the beginning of the year that this is the closest team we’ve been a part of. I agree with that, and it has been easier to transition — especially new guys. I mean, they look up to us, and we just try to set the example and they caught on right away. So, it’s been good so far.”

HOW DO YOU PREPARE, AS FAR AS SCOUTING OPPONENTS?

WENINGER: “We don’t go too deep into it. We’ll look at their offensive tendencies, and we’ll do a team video, and PK [penalty kill] video, to watch how their power play is set up, little things that they like to do, and I try and make sure I kind of keep locked into seeing what their power play tendencies are, so that I know if the puck is up top what a guy might be looking to do instead of just trying to guess and trying to read every time. In the end, for me, it’s just reading the play, I don’t think too much during the game. That sounds weird, but I try not to overthink, I kind of try and just read, and the video helps with that, because then if I’m reading the way the guy is facing — or holding his stick — then that just kind of helps me think ‘Oh, he’s probably going to pass this way’ instead of just trying to guess and trying to read without any background information.”

ON THE FUN OF PLAYING TEAMS LIKE NORTH DAKOTA THIS TIME OF YEAR...

JONES: “I mean, they’re our rivals. We don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s fun to play in these kind of games — especially for fans to be able to involved in stuff like this. But this weekend, for the guys who are coming back, we didn’t forget that they ended our season last year. So we’re going to be playing with a chip on our shoulder. It’s gonna be two good games.” 

WENINGER: “It’s always fun playing North Dakota — especially in our own rink here. It’s a great environment for us, and they always like to bring as many fans as they can. It’s a home game still, but it’s kind of a little bit of a neutral site because they bring a lot of fans. It’s always a fun weekend, and they’re a good team. It’s always a challenge. Pretty excited for it.” 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Series Preview: Omaha at Denver, Dec. 11-12, 2018



Sorry for the lateness of this preview. I think It's hard getting excited about a series when it's as lopsided as UNO Hockey vs. Denver. In doing my research for this weekend's games, I was treated to the statistic that DU has won the past 12 contests against the Mavs, and UNO has not scored in the last three games versus the Pioneers. Ugh.


So please forgive my pessimism as we approach this weekend's games. While Mason Morelli and Fredrik Oloffson said all the right things in the Tuesday Weekly Media Availability about how this time it will be different, the fact is that the Mavs are 6-10-2 overall and 2-5-1-0/1 in the NCHC while Denver is 12-4-2 overall and 4-4-0 in the NCHC (ranked fourth in the NCHC, tied with Miami) — and ranked #3 in the USCHO national poll. Ugh.


This could be ugly. But hey, it's hockey, and this is why we play the games, right?


One positive is Evan Weninger, who was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Week last week.





Series preview articles:


Preview article from Denver:
When:
Friday, 8:37 p.m. CT
Saturday, 8:07 p.m. CT

Radio/TV Coverage:

Radio: Both games will be broadcast live on 1180 AM (Zone 2). Dave Ahlers will provide play-by-play and Terry Leahy will give color commentary. 

TV: Friday night's game will be on CBS Sports Network (and because of this, it will not be available on NCHC.tv). Saturday's game will be on NCHC.tv ($).

Live Audio and Stats:
Live Audio: Click here.
Live Stats: Click here for Friday and here for Saturday


Also be sure to check out the 13th episode of the "MavPuckCast with Jason & Jon," 
recorded after the Alaska Anchorage sweep:


Next up: The UNO Hockey team returns to Baxter Arena next weekend to face North Dakota on Friday, Jan. 18 and Saturday, Jan. 19.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes - Jan. 8, 2019


UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, senior forward Mason Morelli, and senior forward Fredrik Olofsson answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Jan. 8, 2019.   

Gabinet fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series against Alaska Anchorage at Baxter Arena on Dec. 29 and 31, and the upcoming series at Denver on Jan. 11-12. 

If you would like to watch the news conference, you can do so here.

THOUGHTS ON UPCOMING SERIES AT DENVER...

GABINET: “They [Denver] are coming off a big sweep over Wisconsin and I think they outshot Wisconsin two-to-one on Saturday night. So obviously they are playing at an extremely high level right now.”

GABINET: “We were talking as a staff yesterday — just watching guys' skill development throughout the season has been awesome.” 

GABINET: “We’re excited to go out there and have a good series against Denver.” 

SURPRISED BY DENVER MAINTAINING A HIGH LEVEL OF PLAY THIS SEASON?

GABINET: “I don’t think so. Both David [Carle] and their assistants there under Montgomery have done a great job recruiting. If you look at their roster, they’re not deep on seniors.”

GABINET: “They’ve got one of the highest [scoring freshmen classes in the country]. So any time you have a recruiting class like that — that’s contributing well — and they’re doing well — they’re one of those teams that just seems to reload every year. Got a couple draft picks there. Some good players. I think they’re doing a great job there at that program and the results are speaking for themselves.” 

GABINET: “I also think we’re doing a good job, too. And our guys are getting better as well. So it’s gonna be a fun weekend coming up.”

ON THE TEAM’S LACK OF RECENT SUCCESS IN DENVER... 

GABINET: “We’re just gonna really focus on ‘one day at a time’ right now — how are we getting better today and let the results be the results.”

ON THE TEAM’S INJURY SITUATION...

GABINET: “The bad news is, it hasn’t gotten any better. The good news is, we gotta good lineup. Jalen Schulz will probably play forward again this weekend for us there. I think we’ve got three or four guys out still, but hey, that’s okay. I thought guys stepped up last weekend, especially on Monday.”

GABINET: “We’ll have a young defense corps. And we’ll have Jalen playing up front for us. I thought he brought some energy, though, and brought a little toughness and hardness to the forward lineup. The type of kid he is, and the team guy he is, he takes on any challenge with a smile on his face and a work ethic to back it up. We’ll have who we have, and we’ll get after them.”

ON THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF MORELLI AND OLOFSSON THIS SEASON...

GABINET: “If you get the chance to come watch practice, and you would say in my three years here, ‘who’s been practicing the right way and learning on that and growing on that,’ those two guys' names pop into my mind right off the bat. For me, if you watch how they practice, they do the little things, they do the hard things consistently. To me, their practices look similar day in and day out. They don’t have one good one and one bad one.” 

GABINET: “Anytime we do goalie practice, and we need shooters — they’re the first guys out there shooting pucks.” 

GABINET: “I remember growing up I used to think, man, like ‘Crosby has always probably been a great player.’ When you get around the program and you know as many NHL coaches as I know — and you hear about the work ethic and the commitment level that those guys have — it’s no surprise. Then they have the talent to back it up. [Morelli and Olofsson] are no different. They are extremely talented, but they show up everyday. They work hard. They have attention to detail and it’s paying off for them now, and they’re improving defensively too.” 

GABINET: “They’re gonna have a big second half for us here.” 

ON THE FINAL MONTHS OF THE SEASON...

GABINET: “Our good friend of the program, Sam Spomer, still helps us out with some analytics and things like that. We had the hardest schedule in the history of the program last season. And now we have the hardest schedule in the history of the program this season. So, you’re not going to get those easy weekends.” 

GABINET: “I just chose to have the mindset in the second half here we’re gonna get after teams. We’re gonna skate. We’re gonna compete. And our guys are getting better.” 

ON WENINGER’S PERFORMANCE AGAINST UAA PROVIDING MOMENTUM IN THE SECOND HALF...

GABINET: “That’s one of the things, with experience, is you can draw on it. You actually did it. It’s one thing to talk about, it’s another thing to actually have the results and to do it. I told both the goalies before the second half, I challenged them and said our goaltending has to be better. We’re gonna play the guys that are in the starts in practice. They know that’s how we’re gonna operate, and I thought Evan had a good week of practice, and I thought Tomek is competing harder too. So we’re gonna base that on this week too. But I think for Evan to have the results there, and make the saves that he had to make, and he looked really sharp. I think he’s continued to look sharp this week in practice as well.” 


PLAYER THOUGHTS ON THE SECOND HALF...

MORELLI: “It was a good weekend against Anchorage. Worked some of the cobwebs out. Anchorage worked hard and gave us good competition — a good battle. It was good to get back on track.”

OLOFSSON: “We just got our conditioning up in the off week, and then took some time to evaluate how we did against Anchorage. I think we’re ready to go.”

ON THE FACT THAT BOTH OF YOU ARE NEAR THE TOP OF THE LEAGUE IN SCORING...

OLOFSSON: “I haven’t really looked at it too much. I think we just come in every day trying to work and get better. Stay late after practice. Try and do extra. Just stuff like that. I guess leading from example is good for the team. When it comes to the actual points, I don’t think that’s something we try and worry about too much.”

MORELLI: “You just want to make sure, at the end of the night, you win. I think that’s our main focus.” 

MORELLI: “We just want to be the best leaders we can, and ultimately get the win at the end of the night.” 

PLAYER PERSPECTIVES ON LACK OF SUCCESS AT DENVER IN RECENT YEARS...

MORELLI: “It’s definitely in the back of our minds. Since freshman year we’re 0 and, I dunno, 15 or 16 or something like that, which is a little ridiculous. It’s something that we want to shatter — we want to break that trend. I think with this team, we can. Obviously, it’s not easy going to play in Denver.”

OLOFSSON: “We know how important this weekend is. For everyone that’s been here for our time — and even the juniors — it’s personal. We need to take care of business here. That’s one of mine — one of our team’s — goals this year is to give these guys a good fight. We’ll be ready.” 

HOW DO YOU FEEL THE PLAYERS ARE NOW, COMPARED TO THE FIRST HALF...

OLOFSSON: “I definitely think we’re just clicking a little bit better. I mean, we were kind of fighting ourselves a lot in that first half playing against some good times. You can even tell, in practice, the execution is getting better. I still think we have a ways to go, even for myself, for Mason and our line.”

MORELLI: “We always just try to stress how important practice is, and how it needs to be harder than the game, and I think we’ve come a long way from September or August compared to now. Guys are starting to get it, and buy in. With Freddy and some of the seniors we have, and myself, I think we’re leading the right way and starting to figure it out a little more — and I think those younger guys — especially the ones that are playing big minutes — are kind of starting to chip in and buy in.”

HOW HARD WAS IT FOR MORELLI TO SIT OUT THE SECOND HALF OF LAST SEASON  WITH AN INJURY SUSTAINED DURING THE HOLIDAY BREAK?

MORELLI: “It’s kind of hard to put into words. It was just something that’s kind of like ‘rock bottom’ in a way. Just being back now is all the more special, and — like Freddy said — we want to lead this team to some big things, and end on a very high note.”

ON BEING SENIORS AND THE APPROACHING END OF YOUR CAREERS AT UNO...

OLOFSSON: “It kind of kicks in when you hit senior year. I mean, it goes fast. You don’t really realize that as a freshman because the seniors are always on you. You’ll get it when you’re in our shoes.”

MAV ASSISTANT DAVE NOEL-BERNIER MENTIONED DURING THE SUMMER THAT — TO INCREASE OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION — THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING THE PUCK INTO THE CREASE AREA. IS GETTING THE PUCK AT THE GOALIE’S FEET ACCOUNTING FOR YOUR SUCCESS THIS SEASON?

OLOFSSON: “That’s something as a line and as a team we’re all trying to harp on — getting pucks into those areas. It’s not that we don’t have the same amount of skill as last year, but we’re just learning it’s easier to score goals when you’re closer to the net and you’re getting those rebounds. Not every goal is going to be a highlight reel goal, or a slapshot from the top of the circle, like Pope used to do. Getting dirty, getting greasy — that’s a good way to score. And that’s kind of like an identity we want to form for the team here.”

MORELLI: “I think that’s what works nowadays, in today’s game. The D are so good it’s hard to take them on one-on-one, and put it through through their feet and then go walk the goalie. It’s simple plays that make the biggest difference. Moving the puck low to high and having the D shoot. Getting a guy in front of the goalie’s eyes. Turning around and banging home a rebound or just grinding away in front of the net. That’s what works in today’s era of hockey. We kind of try to set the bar with that and play simple and play hard.

MORELLI: “Obviously, it’s nice to have a Tyler Weiss goal or something, when he dangles through the defenseman and makes the goalie look dumb. But nowadays, it’s all about the smart, simple plays and that’s what wins you games.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wrapping Up The Weekend: Anchorage Series (Dec. 29 and 31, 2018)


The Mavs wrapped up 2018 with the first sweep of the season, with goaltender Evan Weninger blanking Alaska Anchorage in both non-conference games. The Mavs beat the Seawolves 3-0 on Saturday night and completed the sweep with a 4-0 victory on New Year's Eve in a noon game.

For his efforts, Weninger was named the NCHC Goaltender of the Week for the second time this season:




The series was the first consecutive shutouts for UNO Hockey since 2002. With the Monday win, Weninger also tied #oldbull Dan Ellis with seven career shutouts.


In addition, Ryan Galt's goal made the NCHC's Top 5 Plays of the Week (with Play #5) for Week 11:





You can hear what Jason & Jon thought about the series on the 13th episode of the MavPuckCast: 




Poll Results:
The sweep did nothing to improve the Mavs' poll standings.


USCHO poll for Monday, Jan. 7




The Mavs still haven't cracked the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine weekly poll at all this year:



Media Roundup:
Here's the OMavs story about Saturday's win:

https://omavs.com/news/2018/12/29/hockey-weninger-mavericks-blank-seawolves-3-0.aspx

Here's Tony Boone's Omaha World-Herald writeup of Saturday night's game:

https://www.omaha.com/uno/hockey/uno-snaps-four-game-winless-streak-with---victory/article_5f6def2f-4b75-5d8e-bfb0-5795b9ae99cf.html

Here's the Omavs story about Monday's win and sweep:

https://omavs.com/news/2018/12/31/hockey-mavericks-sweep-seawolves-with-another-shutout-4-0.aspx

And here's the Boone's Omaha World-Herald writeup of Monday's win:
https://www.omaha.com/uno/hockey/evan-weninger-records-record-tying-shutout-as-uno-sweeps-alaska/article_c9308910-3a4a-54b6-85f0-7cb3e2801c4b.html

Finally, here's our MavPuck writeup of Tuesday's news conference:

UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes — Dec. 8

Looking Ahead to This Weekend:

The Mavs go on the road to Denver University this weekend as they resume conference play. The Pioneers are currently in fourth place in the NCHC and are coming off a sweep at Wisconsin. DU has won the past 12 contests against the Mavs, and UNO has not scored in the last three games versus the Pioneers.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Series Preview: Omaha vs. Alaska Anchorage, Dec. 29 & 31 at Baxter Arena


They're back!

After heading home for the holidays, the Mavericks are back home at Baxter Arena for a pre-New Year's non-conference series with Alaska Anchorage.

The Mavs are 4-10-2 overall and are seventh in the NCHC with a 2-5-1-0/1 conference record. The Seawolves are 2-13-1 overall and 1-10-1 in the WCHA. UAA's second win of the season came in their most recent game, however, as they beat Bemidji State on Dec. 15.  UNO last played Dec. 8, losing 7-1 at St. Cloud State.

UNO and UAA last met in 2016 in the Brice Hockey Classic in Alaska. The Mavs beat the Seawolves 3-1 in that matchup. UNO leads the all-time series 6-2-1 and has won both meetings in Omaha. The Mavs have won the last five games between the schools.

There was no Tuesday Weekly Media Availability due to the Christmas holiday.

Series preview articles:

Preview article from omavs.com:
https://omavs.com/news/2018/12/27/hockey-mavericks-ring-in-new-year-with-seawolves.aspx

Preview article from UAA:
http://www.goseawolves.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=58450&SPID=6373&DB_LANG=C&ATCLID=211785075&DB_OEM_ID=13400

Preview article from the Omaha World-Herald:
https://www.omaha.com/uno/hockey/after-inconsistent-first-half-of-hockey-season-mavs-hope-to/article_8f0b3ddf-379f-5668-8c7f-d134433b006b.html

Looks like Boone posted a newer article for the season preview (updated 7:51 p.m. Friday, 12/28):
https://www.omaha.com/uno/hockey/following-challenging-first-half-of-season-uno-hockey-ready-to/article_057a333a-8cb2-562d-836a-c59bc37777fe.html

When:
Saturday, 7:07 p.m. CT
Monday (New Year's Eve), 12:07 p.m. CT

Radio/TV Coverage:
Both games will be broadcast live on 1180 AM (Zone 2). Dave Ahlers will provide play-by-play and Terry Leahy will give color commentary.

TV:
Both games will be streamed on NCHC.tv ($).

Live Audio and Stats:
Live Audio: Click here.
Live Stats: Click here.




Also be sure to check out the twelfth episode of the "MavPuckCast with Jason & Jon," 
recorded during the holiday break:



Next up: The UNO Hockey team has a week off before traveling to Denver Jan. 11-12, 2019.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas from MavPuck!



We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Our gift to you is a new episode of the MavPuckCast — featuring a poem by Jon, read by Jon and Jason. (The poem is below.)



‘Twas the night before hockey, and all through Baxter rink
Not a creature was mooing, not even a Maverick;
Clear plastic stockings were hung by the lockers with care,
In hopes that a victory soon would be theirs;
The players were resting, all snug in their rooms;
Dreaming of scoring and butt-ending goons;

And Jason and I, sitting in front of his Mac,
Had just sat down to record a podcast recap,
When on social media, there arose such a twitter,
We pulled out our phones to see why fans were so bitter.
Away to the app we clicked in a dash,
Scrolled through the timeline. ready to bash,
Dozens of comments, my mind starts to fade,
So many fans are throwing out shade,

When what to my scrolling thumb did click,
But Mike Gabinet and six players with sticks,
With a power play and forecheck so fluid and quick,
I knew in a moment these were our long-lost Mavericks,
More practiced than St. Cloud, his skaters they came,
And whistled, and hollered, and called them by name:
“Now, Mason! Now Freddy! Now Evan! Now Tyler!
On Steven! On Riley! On Teemu and Tristan!”
To the top of the circle! To the offensive zone!
Now skate away! Skate away! Put the puck home!”

As passes are made before the hockey puck flies,
When they get to the blue line and toss aside guys;
So up to the net-front our forwards they flew,
With a line full of scorers and Weninger too.
And then, out on Twitter, I saw in a thread,
The Mav fans all saying “these guys are not dead,”
As I looked to the ice, and was searching for clues,
On the bench Gabs stood saying, “we’re not gonna lose.”
He was dressed in a suit, from his head to his foot,
And his pockets were all filled with kale and turnip root;
A bundle of pucks he had hung on his back,
And he looked like a salesman from the long dormant Stick Shack.

His eyes — how they sparkled! His scowl, so intense!
Removing Dean Blais now made complete and total sense.
Gabs barked out orders like a crafty old pro,
And did everything in his power to make our Mavs go,
A wink of his eye and a nod of his head,
Left fans soon to know there were good things ahead.
The refs skated in and blew on their whistles,
Gabs jumped off the bench like a laser-guided missile.
We heard him exclaim, as he walked off the ice—
“Merry Christmas, Mav fans, we’re still in this fight!”

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Origins of UNO Hockey

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

One of the things that has fascinated me about UNO Hockey over the course of the past 22 years has been the nascent beginnings for the sport at the university in the 1970s. 

Before I go any further, I want to thank the talented team of archivists at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Criss Library for directing me to digitized yearbooks and providing rare photographs of UNO’s club hockey team during the 1970s. 

I touched on this topic a bit in a 2015 blog titled “The Arena Origin Story (Part 1).”

In that post, I talked about the Omaha Knights minor league team folding in the early 1970s. Fans of the sport were left to wonder if they’d get to watch high-level hockey in Omaha again. 

UNO Athletics was under the direction of Don Leahy at the time. 

The school had fielded a club team since 1972 (research from the Omaha World-Herald archives also uncovered that Omaha University played club hockey during the 1940s).

According to UNO’s 1975 yearbook, a student named Tim Rock decided to organize a club team in January 1972. 

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

The UNO Athletic Department took over some of the costs of fielding a team during that era — providing uniforms and ice time at Ak-Sar-Ben. 

The department’s business manager at the time, Russ Baldwin, said college hockey was a “growing sport” and that professional teams were relying “more and more on college students for talent.”

This image of UNO playing Creighton appeared in the school’s 1975 yearbook:

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

During my research for this article, I began to realize what a terrific opportunity the university had to fill the void left by the departed Knights organization (which played to packed houses at Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum).

A familiar face to UNO Hockey fans took over the fledgling club operation in the 1975-76 season — Duluth, Minnesota native Mike Kemp (who was only 23 at the time). 

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

(Kemp’s current title is “Associate Athletic Director — Events & Facilities” at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Prior to being elevated to an associate athletic director position, he coached the UNO Hockey program from 1996 thru 2009.)

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

Omaha World-Herald reporter Jerry Fricke addressed the state of hockey in Omaha in a column published on April 21, 1976: 

“Coach Kemp, whose club team finished with an 11-14-2 record, has been recruiting and arranging a schedule with the idea that UNO will go varsity. ‘If we don’t go varsity, I won’t be here,’ Kemp said. ‘Most of the games I’ve arranged are with varsity teams, and they won’t play us unless we have a varsity team.’”

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

Further research in the Omaha World-Herald shows that a non-profit group had been set up to help raise money for scholarships for the club players. 

A recent profile of Mike Kemp — written by Ryan Jaeckel for The Gateway on Oct. 30, 2018 — unearths a few more details about Kemp’s season with UNO’s club program in 1975-76. 

According to the article, Kemp had earned a degree in public relations from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1975. He was working in the family business in Duluth when he received a call from his old hockey coach informing him that UNO was “looking for a club hockey coach.”

Kemp told The Gateway that his experience coaching UNO's club team was “interesting.”

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

There were players from a variety of backgrounds, Jaeckel wrote. "A 38-year-old from North Dakota working at Kellogg’s. Another, from Michigan State, was in their mid-30s and worked as a salesman for a major corporation. There were Creighton Prep seniors. Even Kemp’s closest friend, who had just returned from Vietnam, joined in the fun.” 

According to Jaeckel's article, the "friend who had just returned from the Vietnam War" would eventually be involved in starting UNO's Division 1 program in 1996.

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

Kemp referred to that club team, "lovingly," as “the largest collection of human debris ever assembled.”

As I alluded to earlier, there was talk that UNO would move up to the varsity level for hockey in the 1976-77 season. “Kemp began recruiting immediately,” writes Jaeckel, “going as far north as Canada.” 

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

UNO ended its efforts early, citing financial constraints at the time. Kemp left the university shortly thereafter, and the school’s hockey prospects remained largely dormant for another two decades. 

There were other iterations of UNO’s club team between the 1970s era club teams and the NCAA Division I program started in 1996. 

For example, the 1981 flavor of club hockey at UNO was led by a player/coach named Tak Soto — who played on the Japanese Olympic hockey team (according to the March 4, 1981, issue of The Gateway):

Photo credit: UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections

When UNO Hockey finally took hold as a varsity sport in May 1996, Bridget and I (both newly-minted graduates of the university) put down our deposit on a pair of seats. I sent her over to Sapp Fieldhouse to wait in line the morning tickets first went on sale. 

The reason I did is because I liked the idea that UNO was doing something interesting as it regarded athletics, and because I thought it would help UNO build its own identity in the lexicon of local sports. 

But I’ve always wondered “what if?”

Had UNO started varsity-level hockey in the 1970s, would it have survived? Would it be a program with dozens of banners and hardware from decades of NCAA tournament appearances and championships? 

We’ll never know, but it is fun to think about. 

Like this blog post? Check out more photos from the UNO Libraries' Archives and Special Collections here.