Friday, October 21, 2016

Omaha vs. Vermont: Oct. 21-22, 2016 at Baxter Arena

Coming off the win of the Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament last weekend (the first team from the lower 48 states to win the coveted "golden bowl"), the Mavs are ranked in the poll (#20) and "receiving votes" in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine College Hockey poll.

They take on the Vermont Catamounts of Hockey East, who are making their first trip to Omaha. (UNO also played Vermont for the first time last year, sweeping them in Burlington.) Vermont comes into the series 1-1-0 after a split with Clarkson last weekend to open the year. The Mavs are 2-0-0. (The exhibition loss to the University of Alberta does not factor into their record.)

The Catamounts are without four of their captains (two captains and two assistant captains), who are serving suspensions related to their involvement in a player hazing in September. They were suspended for five games, which began with last Friday's game -- and continues through this weekend's series. The players could practice with the team but could not travel for this weekend's series. You can't help but feel optimistic that the loss of these players will be beneficial for the Mavs, but scoring remains a big question mark, despite last weekend's wins. If Jake Randolph can continue feeding his linemates this weekend, though, it bodes well for the Mavs.

Media Roundup Leading to the Series:

Here's the Omavs preview of the weekend:

Tony Boone of the Omaha World-Herald talks about the impact of Austin Ortega and Jake Randolph in his series preview:

And UNO's Maverick Maniacs got a profile by WOWT:

(Fact check, though: Billy Pugliese didn't score the first UNO goal. James Chalmers did.)

A limited number of tickets are available for the weekend's series.

Friday night ($20-$27):

Saturday night ($20-$27):

Blue Line Club Member Update:
Blue Line Club members will have access to the arena before it officially opens. The area located near the Blue Line Bar will be open from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. just for BLC members. To gain entrance to the arena before 6 p.m., show your BLC membership card at the MAIN ENTRANCE (by the Baxter Arena Team Shop). After 6 p.m., the arena is open to all. Free popcorn for BLC members will be available at the counter, however, popcorn must be consumed within the BLC area.

BLC members will be on hand to address questions about the One Fund and joining the Blue Line Club. When you submit your application to the One Fund, you must mark "HOCKEY" as one of the recipients of your donation. If you do not select hockey, you will not be considered a BLC member.

Radio/TV Coverage:
Friday night's game will be televised live on American Sports Network, which is available on Channel 42.2 (over the air), Cox Channel 6 (UPDATED INFO!), Centurylink Channel 43 and DirecTV channel 628. Joel Goldberg will have the play-by-play action and Pat Micheletti will provide color commentary. Both games will also be available by subscription ($) on

Radio coverage will begin with the First National Bank Pre-Game Show at 6:30 p.m. both nights. Dave Ahlers will provide play-by-play, Terry Leahy will give color commentary and analysis, and Lester St. James will report from ice level.

Live Audio and Stats:
Live audio link here.
Live stats (Friday) here.
Live stats (Saturday) here.

Next Weekend:
The Vermont series begins a three weekend homestand for the Mavericks at Baxter Arena. The Mavs welcome UMass Lowell (also of Hockey East) next weekend, Oct. 28-29. Both games will begin at 7:07 p.m. Central.

Friday, October 14, 2016

First "Real" Games of the Year: Brice Alaska Goal Rush (Oct. 14-15, 2016)

In a week filled with highs and lows, the Mavs start the "real" 2016-17 season with the Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament tonight, taking on Alaska Anchorage tonight at 7:07 p.m. Central time. The Mavericks will play Alaska on Saturday at 10:07 p.m. Central.

The lows from last week were the loss to the University of Alberta in the exhibition, and a very interesting Tom Shatel article featuring Coach Blais.

Before that article, Tony Boone actually had a really nice interview with Blais in which (as I put it), Blais "called his shot" and said the Mavs are going to win the Goal Rush. We'll see.

Alaska Anchorage is 0-2-0 on the season, getting swept at home by Minnesota last Friday night, and Alaska on Saturday night. Alaska, meanwhile, is 1-1-0, having beaten Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, but losing to Minnesota on Sunday.

One interesting note: The Mavericks left for Alaska on Wednesday, one day earlier than normal, after having encountered significant travel difficulties in their last trip up North. We'll see if getting acclimated to the time change makes a difference for the Mavs this time around.

Here's a roundup of articles leading up to the tournament:

Tony Boone post-exhibition Omaha World-Herald article (featuring the infamous Blais quote about winning the tournament):

Tony Boone Omaha World-Herald Goal Rush tournament preview: Goal Rush tournament preview:

TV Coverage:
Friday and Saturday night's games are available on A one-day "Alaska" pass is $8.99:

(The monthly pass is $19.99, so you may be tempted to buy that instead of two one-day passes, but if it works like it used to, you will be auto-renewed for November if you don't cancel after this weekend's series, so I don't recommend that.)

Dudley's Pizza and Tavern in Aksarben Village will also be showing this weekend's games.

Radio Coverage:
The games will be broadcast on 1180 AM (1180 The Zone 2). Dave Ahlers will provide radio play-by-play and Terry Leahy will provide color commentary and analysis. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday with the First National Bank Pre-Game Show, and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

Live Audio & Stats
Live Audio Link here.
Live Stats here.

Next Series:
After the trip to Alaska, the Mavs will return to Baxter Arena for the first home seires of the year, facing Vermont (Hockey East) on Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 22. Both games will begin at 7:07 p.m.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Alberta Beats Omaha 3-2

The good news is, the last time the Mavs lost an exhibition game, they ended up going to the Frozen Four.

The bad news is, the two times they lost an exhibition game before that, they didn't.

What kind of season will this be?

The game started well for the Mavericks, with goals from Fredrik Olofsson and Mason Morelli sparking the Mavs to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Evan Weninger took the first shift in goal (as is tradition, each of the goalies played a period in goal), but he allowed two goals. The score was tied 2-2 after one.

The score remained 2-2 after two periods. Alex Blankenburg had a good second period in goal, stopping eight shots, including a couple of solid Alberta attempts.

New goalie Kris Oldham was solid in net until late in the third period, when Austin Ortega lost the puck and Alberta turned it into a goal.

Final score: Alberta 3, UNO 2.

Catch the game highlights from Omaha Video:
Here's the OMavs writeup from the game:

Here's the Omaha World-Herald article ($):

And photos from the Omaha World-Herald:

And here's what Coach Blais had to say in the post-game press conference:
Next up:
UNO heads up to Alaska next weekend for the Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament. The Mavs take on Alaska Anchorage in the Friday game, which will begin at 7 p.m. Omaha time. We'll have a blog post for you later this week with all the game info.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

And So It Begins … UNO vs. Alberta -- Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016


That's UNO Hockey's all-time record in games versus Canadian schools.

Let's hope it's 18-3-0 after tonight's game versus Alberta, the first time these two schools have met on the ice.

Are you ready?

Here's the details:

Game time -- 7:07 p.m. from Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

Mav record: 0-0-0 (the Mavs went 18-17-1 last season, finishing in sixth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference).

Golden Bears: 5-3-0 so far in the 2016-17 season

Series preview from Omavs:

Preview article from the Omaha World-Herald ($):

TV Coverage:Saturday night's game will be on

Radio Coverage:The games will be broadcast on 1180 AM (1180 The Zone 2). Dave Ahlers will provide radio play-by-play and Terry Leahy will provide color commentary and analysis. Lester St. James will report from the ice level. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the First National Bank Pre-Game Show.

Live Audio & Stats:
Live Audio Link here.
Live Stats here.

Next Weekend:The Mavericks head north for the Brice Alaska Goal Rush hosted by Alaska on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 14-15. They will play Alaska Anchorage on Friday at 4:07 p.m. Alaska time and then take on the host Nanooks on Saturday at 7:07 p.m. Alaska time from the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Big News for the Baxter Arena Team Store

As of Friday, Sept. 30, the UNO Bookstore has taken over management of the Baxter Arena team store ("The Mav Locker Room") said Eric Hager, manager of the UNO Bookstore. The arena team store was run by the UNO Athletic Department in its first year of operation.

One of the biggest advantages for fans is that the apparel that the team (players and coaches) wear will now be available for purchase by the public.

The Team Store will open two hours before game time, and remain open after the end of the game. ("We'll close when we get kicked out," Hager joked.) A common complaint from fans last season was that the store was often closed.

Other improvements:

  • There will be a phone number for the team store. (Believe it or not, it didn't have a separate phone number previously.)
  • Hager expects that gift cards for the team store will be available for purchase before Christmas. (A great gift for the Mav Hockey fan in your life!)

Hager says fans can expect to hear more about the team store during games, especially hockey games. They are planning a "pop up" store in the concourse, and will be doing in-game promotions, including possibly using the MavX app.

The UNO Bookstore is located on the main campus in the Milo Bail Student Center.

While I was at the UNO Bookstore, I checked out some of the new merchandise. Here's a quick roundup of some key items:

Omaha Mavericks License Plate Holder – $16.99
UNO Hockey License Plate Holder – $16.99
Alumni license plate holder: $24.99
Keepsake Ticket Display Holder – $15.00
Wooden Sign – $30.00
Youth Under Armour All Season Tech Sweatshirts (Youth Small to Youth XL/Adult Small) – $49.99
Infant Fleece Footed Romper (0-3 months) – $26.99
Toddler Dimpled Fleece Jacket (2T to 4T) – $36.99
Adidas Performance Shirt (up to XXL sizing – "runs bigger") – $24.99
UNO Pride T-Shirt (up to XXXL sizing) – $24.99

The UNO Bookstore hours are Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The bookstore is closed Saturdays and Sundays. You can also shop the bookstore online here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

UNO Hockey on TV 2016-17

While most people who read this blog are going to be AT the UNO Hockey games (at least the home ones!), I like to do a roundup post each season that has the TV schedule so you can either catch games that you can't make it to, or re-watch awesome match-ups.

I'll be updating this post as the season goes on as additional games on TV are announced. As of this update (Sept. 29, 2016), the Mavs will be featured in 10 televised games (not including
We LOVE our subscription. We have the full conference subscription, so it allows us to watch most of the UNO Hockey away games as well as matchups between other conference foes.

According to the NCHC news release, this year's conference annual pass will have access to more than 130 games throughout the season, including almost all conference and home non-conference games. It will also include all exhibition games and the NCHC Tournament quarterfinal games.

The cost for a conference annual pass for this season is $104.95 -- making the cost less than $1 a game. (There was an earlybird special in August that was even less -- watch for that next year.) Or you can get a conference monthly pass for $24.95/month.

You can also get a school-specific annual pass (for example, JUST UNO Hockey games) for $89.95, or a school-specific monthly pass for $18.95 per month.

If you have questions about, contact NeuLion at

Please note: If you purchase a school-specific annual pass or monthly pass, these subscriptions automatically renew each year unless cancelled.

All games shown on during the upcoming season will be in high definition (HD).

New this year: Viewers with subscriptions will be able to watch on both Apple TV and Roku devices. (Last year, we mirrored our feed to our TV using our iPad and Apple TV, but this year, you can watch it natively on the tv). Or, you can stream games from on any desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device with an Internet connection.

Catch a preview of here:

You can watch The NCHC State of the Conference address on Thursday, Sept. 22 here:

CBS Sports Network
One thing I don't like about games shown on CBS Sports Network is that these games are then not available on

We asked the NCHC about this, and this was the answer:

The short answer:
"The CBSSN contract was created and signed before existed and CBSSN wanted the digital rights, so they have them."

Here's the UNO Hockey games that will be on CBS Sports Network:
  • Friday, Jan. 27 – UNO at Denver, 8:30 p.m. Central
  • Friday, March 3 – Denver at UNO, 7:30 p.m. Central

NET Nebraska/Fox College Sports

Four of UNO's home games will be televised on NET Nebraska, with funding coming from the UNO Office of Academic and Student Affairs.

The games will include:

  • Friday, Nov. 18 – Minnesota-Duluth at UNO, 7 p.m. (Fox College Sports)
  • Friday, Jan. 6 – North Dakota at UNO, 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Jan. 21 – Miami at UNO, 7:30 p.m. (Fox College Sports)
  • Friday, Feb. 10 – Western Michigan at UNO, 7 p.m.

American Sports Network
This channel, available over the air in Omaha, will feature four UNO games:

  • Friday, Oct. 21 – Vermont at UNO, 7:07 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 2 – UNO at Wisconsin, 7:05 p.m.
  • Saturday, Jan. 7 – North Dakota at UNO, 7:07 p.m.
  • Friday, Jan. 13 – UNO at Colorado College, 8:37 p.m.

Here's the link to the NCHC full TV conference schedule too:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Breaking Down UNO's New Assistants

By Jon Brooks

Photo by Greg McVey

In the wake of the firings of UNO assistant coaches Troy Jutting and Alex Todd on March 31, the Mavericks have wrangled up a couple of assistants to try to reverse the fortunes of a program that started off the 2015-16 season 14-3-1, then finished with a 4-14 record.

UNO has hired Mike Gabinet and Leigh Mendelson as assistants for the 2016-17 season. 

Many were surprised when Blais decided to clean house after the season, but the move shouldn't surprise anyone. Not only are expectations higher after the team's first-ever Frozen Four appearance in 2015, there are mounting bills coming due on the university's shiny new Baxter Arena

Since most of the local media coverage of the hirings has been "press release" material, I thought I'd take a closer look at both coaches, and analyze the challenges and opportunities facing the entire staff moving forward. 

Gabinet Returns After Coaching a Canadian College Team to a 36-0 Record 

Mike Gabinet is not the first former UNO Hockey player to join the coaching staff as a full-time assistant (that honor goes to Nick Fohr). 

Gabinet is, however, the first former UNO player to join the staff with head coaching experience -- one season with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC). 

Prior to the 2015-16 campaign, he was an assistant for three seasons with the Ooks (joining them after a nine-year professional career playing in North America, Sweden and Finland). 

We profiled Gabinet in a March blog post focusing on hypothetical assistant coach candidates.  

The Ooks finished their season with a perfect 36-0 record in the ACAC. Regardless of the circumstances or level of play, an unblemished record is worth lauding. 

Canadian college hockey is different than NCAA hockey (or NCAA athletics in general). Athletes who have played professionally are allowed to come back to school and play in the league NAIT competes in. 

In the case of the Ooks, their leading scorer the past two seasons was a forward named John Dunbar (not to be confused with the character Kevin Costner played in the movie Dances With Wolves).  

Prior to joining the Ooks, Dunbar played three seasons professionally in the ECHL -- two with the Fort Wayne Komets and one with the Pensacola Ice Flyers. He also had a two-season stint with Quinnipiac University (2010-12). 

The Edmonton Sun had an article praising Gabinet and other ACAC coaches in Cananda, talking about how the conference is a good proving ground for NHL coaches and that "the quality of ACAC competition remains almost unknown to the general public."  

Another tidbit mentioned in the Edmonton Sun article is the fact that there is no "national championship of colleges" in Canada. 

All schools in the ACAC compete under the same rules, but it illustrates the different dynamic at play north of the border. As such, we will have to see how Gabinet's experience translates to NCAA D-I hockey. 

As a follower and supporter of the UNO program since its inception, I can say that Gabinet was top-notch defenseman with size and reach during his years as a Maverick. Not only that, his affable, polite and laid back manner with the fans during those years should go a long way with players and prospects in his new gig. 

Gabinet, along with former NAIT Head Coach Serge Lajoie, put together a successful pool of talent for the Ooks. 

Lajoie and Gabinet wanted to make a statement against UNO in the fall of 2014. According to the Edmonton Sun, they "hoped to make the North American hockey world come to realize that the hockey in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference is played at an extremely high level."

It worked. NAIT went on to defeat UNO 4-0 in their exhibition game on Oct. 6, 2014. 

It's worth noting that UNO gave Gabinet a three-year contract at $120,000 per year. Multi-year contracts of this length are something of a rarity for assistant coaches at UNO. 

Considering his past relationship with Associate Athletic Director Mike Kemp, it seems likely that UNO views Gabinet as a possible successor to Dean Blais (when the storied head coach decides to hang up his whistle someday). 

Whether that happens remains to be seen, but that appears to be the direction Sapp Fieldhouse is heading at the moment. 

Mendelson Brings a Long List of Coaching Experiences to the Bench

Some of our faithful readers will notice that I had left Leigh Mendelson off the profile of possible candidates I wrote about in a March blog post

That wasn't meant to be a slight, but in the past, "volunteer assistants" with UNO have been on different career trajectories, many with families, and are aiding the team as an outlet to stay involved with the game they know and love. That's not the case with Mendelson.

Mendelson is owner and instructor with Goalietown Omaha -- working with youth goaltenders in the Omaha area. 

(He also earned an undergraduate degree from UNO in 2015). 

Mendelson has served as Volunteer Goaltending Coach for UNO the past two seasons. The results between the pipes have been impressive during that time -- in particular, Ryan Massa's performance during the 2014-15 season. 

The list of coaching stops for Mendelson has been extensive the past 20 years, featuring brief stints with a variety of junior and professional teams in North America and Europe. He mentions on his Goalietown Omaha Facebook page that he has trained more than 40 NCAA Division I and professional goaltenders during his career. 

He has served in both assistant and head coaching capacities. Local hockey fans might remember the 2000-01 Omaha Lancers (USHL) team that won the Clark Cup -- Mendelson was an assistant under Mike Hastings.

He was one of Dave Hakstol's assistants with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) in the 2005-06 season.

During a coaching stint in Finland, Mendelson studied at the Vierumaki Sports Institute with the likes of Erkka Westerlund, who led the Finnish national men's ice hockey team to a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics. 

Mendelson has had a relatively "nomadic" coaching career, moving from team to team and not staying anywhere for long.

This chart from shows the varied coaching experience Mendelson has had with 15 different teams over 20 years:

I've been told that the UNO Hockey players have a great deal of respect for Mendelson. That is an important attribute to have as an assistant -- especially during a period of transition. 

Talent acquistion and scouting are two areas junior teams in the USHL and NAHL deal with on an annual basis. Mendelson's experiences suggest he has knowledge in that area. 

Challenges and Opportunities: Where Does UNO Go From Here...?
The reality is that neither new assistant has experience recruiting players for a NCAA Division I hockey program. That alone makes the hires somewhat surprising for a program that is a season removed from a Frozen Four appearance. 

To be sure, there will be a learning curve for both coaches. If anything, the NCAA game has changed during the past 10 to 15 years.

The recent addition of "full cost of attendance scholarships" (which UNO has said it isn't ready to offer) creates a new dynamic when recruiting student-athletes, and also creates challenges for schools like UNO. 

The key will be for the coaching staff to continue making inroads with the youth and prep ranks -- as it is becoming more common for teams to garner verbal commitments from 15-year-old players. That trend creates uncertainty on the "risk/reward" spectrum, and coaching staffs have to have a discerning eye for talent. 

UNO has had some impressive players during Dean Blais's tenure, and the program needs to continue landing recruits like Ryan Walters, Jake Guentzel, Josh Archibald and Andrej Sustr if it is going to progress into a perennial NCAA tournament participant.

The coaching staff also needs to find a way to harness the power of "lunch pail" players (along the lines of #oldbulls Jeff Hoggan and Mike Lefley, among others), and form a grittier squad better able to compete with the rigors of NCHC play. 

You wonder if the team will shift from the top prep players in Minnesota and the USHL ranks and look for more "golden nuggets" in the Canadian junior ranks (as they did in the program's early years with players like Jeff Hoggan, David Brisson and Greg Zanon). 

The second half of UNO's 2015-16 season featured lackluster performances. In particular, the power play looked anemic. But all aspects of play were suspect. 

Over the years, Blais has tended toward a more freewheeling style of play, with an aggressive forecheck. When you have skilled players with speed, you can have success using that philosophy. Be that as it may, there were moments last season when the team looked slower and less athletic than their NCHC counterparts -- and it cost them in conference play. 

With one assistant having worked extensively with defensemen and defensive systems, and another having spent his career working with goaltenders, it could mean the team will look to build from the "net out" in a more conservative, tough manner with rigid systems and formations.

Then again, it might not mean that at all.

One thing is for sure, the microscope will be on the team the next two seasons, and these two new hires will have a great deal of influence on the direction of the program.