Friday, March 29, 2019

A Hockey Fan's Life: Our Trip to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff


Bridget and I have been fortunate to be able to go on a lot of hockey road trips. As you can imagine, most of those trips have been in support of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Hockey program in various road series and postseason tournaments. 

But some of our favorite hockey-related trips have been those that didn’t involve the Mavericks at all. 

It is in that spirit that we traveled to the 2019 NCHC Frozen Faceoff on March 22-23 in St. Paul, Minn. 


The last time we attended a neutral-site conference championship event was the 2005 CCHA Super 6 in Detroit. 

Like many UNO Hockey fans, we figured we’d wait to attend the NCHC Frozen Faceoff until the Mavs made it to the conference finals. 

That sentiment changed when we won a free pair of tickets from UNO to this year’s event. 

The NCHC Frozen Faceoff is held at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. The venue is the home of the Minnesota Wild. We have a number of friends who have attended Wild games and the Minnesota boys high school hockey tournament at the venue. 

This was our first time at the ‘X.’ 

We drove up to St. Paul on the 21st, and settled into our hotel (which was within reasonable walking distance from the venue). Our room looked out onto the gorgeous Cathedral of St. Paul (more on that later).


We ate dinner at The Peddler’s Pub, which was located in our hotel. The food was good and the prices were reasonable. (Bridget's late brother Sean would have loved the bike-themed restaurant.) 

 


The NCHC Frozen Faceoff is a 4-team/4-game format with two semifinal games on Friday, and a consolation and championship game on Saturday. As a result, we had some time to do other activities before the late afternoon start times. 

On Friday, we met up with some of our UNO Hockey friends (who were also attending the NCHC Frozen Faceoff) at the Mall of America. We played mini-golf at Moose Mountain Adventure Golf in the mall in what was dubbed the “2nd Inaugural MavPuck.com Golf Outing.” 

Photo courtesy of Brent Bean

It took us a surprisingly long time to get through 18 holes of mini-golf, but it was really fun to get to hang out with Chris, Connor, Chuck, Brent, Alexis, and Riley. 

Brent has mentioned a number of times on Twitter and Facebook how he has made a trip to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff an annual tradition since the conference started play in 2013. 

Bridget and I ate lunch at “Melt,” in one of the Mall of America’s food court areas. I had a melt that consisted of sourdough bread, a fried chicken breast, and red cole slaw. It was good (although a bit too much slaw for my taste). 


We did a little more shopping at LEGO and the Apple Store before trekking back to St. Paul for the 4 p.m. match at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. 

The weather was lovely, so we walked the approximately 1 mile to the arena from our hotel. 

Bridget and I have now been to four NHL venues. The Xcel Energy Center is one of the best. Around the arena (particularly on the club level), there are jerseys displayed from Minnesota state high school hockey teams. 


The venue also has a Hobey Baker display. 

There were limited concession stands open for the weekend’s festivities. Those that were open included traditional stadium fare like hotdogs, chicken tenders, burgers, and pizza. A specialty stand near our seats had Chinese offerings. Bridget and I both enjoyed the Original Hockey Mom (OHM) brownie stand and had these delicious “chocolate mint” and “puppy chow” brownie sundaes:


Top seed St. Cloud defeated Colorado College 5-2 in the early game — ending a surprise run by the Tigers in the conference playoffs. 


They also had a sign-making stand setup. Bridget made a number of signs for the weekend, including a sign teasing our niece (who is a student at St. Cloud) for not making the trip (the photo featuring this sign was featured on the Jumbotron all weekend long):


Bridge also made signs using the #SomedayOmaha hashtag (because someday — hopefully soon — our team will make this fine event):


Minnesota-Duluth defeated Denver in the second semi-final game 3-0. I have no idea why I didn’t take a pictures of the rink during this game (you’re probably all like, “Is this a hockey blog or a travel blog?”)

But I did take the opportunity to check out some of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff gear being sold at the Wild merchandise store. I really liked this hoodie, but it wasn’t in my budget:


They also had these lumberjack plaid button-up shirts with team/event logos on them (they just felt very apropos to have in a merch store called “The Hockey Lodge”) — but they were $80 each, and only had the teams participating in the tournament:


I ended up buying a black Frozen Faceoff t-shirt. 

On Saturday, we decided to go visit the Minnesota Sculpture Garden. We had seen publicity materials for the Twin Cities featuring the park’s “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture, but hadn’t seen it in person. (Bridget thinks she may have visited the park many, many years ago on a trip to Minneapolis with Lauren to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, but we don’t know for sure.)


The sculpture garden sits adjacent to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The site features additional sculptures, including this blue rooster:


After our nine-mile jaunt to the sculpture garden, Bridget and I made our way back to the hotel for a quick nap, then we strolled over to the “fan fest” before the 3:30 p.m. “third place” game at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. 

I had a burger and fries from the Xstream Cuisine food truck at the fan fest:


The burger took 15 minutes to cook, and another 20 minutes for me to eat. It was huge! I wasn’t able to finish it (which is rare for me):


When we decided to travel up for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Bridget was hoping to have the opportunity to meet Verna Toller — the Business Operations Manager for the NCHC. We’ve corresponded with her on Twitter over the past few years, but had never met.

We were both happy to have the opportunity to meet her on Saturday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center.

Hockey fans often refer to the NCHC as “the best conference” in college hockey. The reality is that a great tournament like the NCHC Frozen Faceoff needs great people working behind the scenes to get the job done. 

Toller is one of the fine people who keeps the NCHC running like a well-oiled machine. We chatted with her for about 20 minutes. It’s nice to have a chance at these events to meet some of the people we interact with on Twitter each season. Bridget and I are both thankful she had some time for us!

The three of us also took this selfie (the selfies on my iPhone 6S are rarely in focus, but it turned out pretty well):


The championship game featured the NCHC’s top two seeds — St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth. 


The game lived up to the billing. As expected, both Minnesota schools had strong fan representation in the arena, and the atmosphere was electric. The heroics on the ice were exciting, and the game went to not one, but two overtime periods. It ended after 11 p.m. local time. 

UMD ultimately came out as the “top dog,” defeating St. Cloud State 3-2:


Because the game went late, we didn’t get to bed until around 12:45 a.m. As a result, my plan to attend Mass with Bridget at the Cathedral of St. Paul went awry. 


Thankfully, she drove me over to the cathedral on the way out of town. There are a number of really beautiful aspects to the church — including an ornate domed ceiling and stained glass throughout: 


As I mentioned earlier, we have a number of UNO Hockey friends who make the trip up to St. Paul for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on a perennial basis. They kept telling us what an enjoyable trip it is. 

They were definitely right. 

If you love watching college hockey like Bridget and I do, the NCHC Frozen Faceoff features the nation’s best collegiate teams competing in one of the finest venues in a hockey-rich state. 

It is a fun weekend — even if your team isn’t participating. 

Bridget and I hope to make this an annual tradition. 


Friday, March 15, 2019

Series Preview: Playoff Hockey – Omaha at UMD, March 15-17, 2019


It’s time for the first round of the NCHC Playoffs!

UNO ended up in seventh place in the NCHC (they finished the season tied in points, but the Mavs had the tiebreaker over the Miami RedHawks). Consequently, UNO is traveling to Duluth, Minnesota to take on the conference runner-up Bulldogs. UMD is currently ranked #4 nationally (and is #4 in the Pairwise).

The quarterfinals are a best-of-three series, with games Friday and Saturday (and Sunday, if necessary).

Omaha is 9-22-3 overall (5-17-2-0/1 in the NCHC). UNO was swept by the North Dakota Fighting Sioux in Grand Forks, losing 2-1 on Friday and 5-4 on Saturday. The Mavs were unable to leave town after Saturday night's game due to weather, a story that was covered by Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald.

Last weekend, UMD was also swept at St. Cloud State by a score of 4-3 in both games. Friday night's game went to overtime while Saturday's ended in regulation.

When the Mavericks and Bulldogs met in Duluth in January, UMD won both games. UMD is 11-3-1 at AMSOIL this season and is 5-5-0 in its last 10 games.

There was no Weekly Media Availability this week (likely due to UNO Men's Basketball competing in the Summit League championships).

Series preview articles:

OMavs — https://omavs.com/news/2019/3/14/hockey-mavericks-open-playoffs-at-no-4-umd.aspx

UMD – https://umdbulldogs.com/news/2019/3/14/mens-hockey-nchc-playoff-push-begins-this-weekend-for-no-3-umd-with-quarterfinal-round-home-series-against-omaha.aspx


When:
> Friday, 7:07 p.m. CT
> Saturday, 7:07 p.m. CT
> Sunday, 7:07 p.m. CT (if necessary)

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. Pre-game coverage begins 30 minutes prior to face off. 

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

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


Also be sure to check out the 21st episode of the “MavPuckCast with Jason & Jon.” This week's segments: F’n Hawks Again, New/Old Austin, and Playoffs Begin in Duluth.




Tuesday, March 12, 2019

New Recruit: Ty Mueller (F) - Airdrie CFR Chemicals Midget AAA Bisons (AMHL)


UNO just received its first verbal commitment from a recruit born in 2003. 

That recruit is forward Ty Mueller, a Cochrane, Alberta native on the “Reserve Roster” for the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). 

Mueller (who turned 16 on Feb. 26) is the youngest recruit among UNO’s batch of new commits. He is listed by Elite Prospects as a 2021-22 commit. 

Mueller appeared in two games this season with the Okotoks Oilers this season, and tallied one goal in limited duty. 

He logged most of his playing time this season with the Airdrie CFR Chemicals Midget AAA Bisons — part of the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League (AMHL). 

In 34 regular season games with the Bisons, Mueller had 10 goals and 24 assists. He sounds like a good two-way player who performs well in the offensive and defensive zones. 

Prior to playing for the Bisons, Mueller played two seasons with the Airdrie Xtreme Bantam AAA squad. In the 2016-17 season, he had 18 goals and 18 assists in 34 games. In the 2017-18 season, he tallied 20 goals and 17 assists in 31 games. 

Mueller was featured in a WHL Bantam Draft profile on the Prince George Cougars website in 2018 (he was the fifth player picked in that draft by Prince George). He was one of the key components in leading the Airdrie Xtreme Bantam AAA team to the AMBHL championship. He also played in the Alberta Cup (where the team he played on — Team Central — won the title). 

(Gabinet recruited players out of the WHL — “major junior” hockey in Canada — when he was a coach at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology). 

Bob Simmonds — Director of Scouting for Prince George — told PGCougars.com, “Mueller is probably one of the smartest hockey players you will see; his hockey IQ is off the charts.” 

“If you watch him closely he does so many of the details the right way. He brings skill and scoring and he makes the players around him better. He’s a very cerebral player.” 

>> Visit the following link to listen to an audio interview with Mueller (at the end of the article): pgcougars.com/article/whl-bantam-draft-profile-ty-mueller

We’ve talked a lot on MavPuck.com about the fact that Coach Gabinet is looking for smart decision makers with high hockey IQ. He sounds like a top-tier prospect in North America. 

It will be interesting to watch Mueller develop over the next few seasons. 

Stay tuned to mavpuck.com/news for all our future recruiting updates. 



Friday, March 8, 2019

Series Preview: Omaha at North Dakota, March 8-9, 2019


The final weekend of NCHC regular season conference play ends with travel partners (the teams designated as the “natural conference rivals”) facing each other. That’s how UNO finds itself headed to Grand Forks to face North Dakota this weekend.

North Dakota is currently in fifth place in the conference standings with a chance at home ice for the playoffs. UNO is currently tied with Miami for last place (the Mavs currently have the tiebreaker, and are technically in seventh place, while Miami is in eighth place), but it all comes down to this last weekend.

UNO is coming off an interesting weekend. The Mavs lost to Denver on Friday (no surprise, since the team had been winless against the Pioneers in the last 14 games) 4-1. But the team came from behind on Saturday night — which was also an emotional Senior Night that honored nine players — to forge a 3-3 tie with DU, “losing” the game in the 3-on-3 overtime. But the tie provided possible momentum for this weekend's series.

UNO is 9-20-3 on the season (5-15-2-0/1 in conference play). North Dakota is 16-15-2 overall (10-11-1-0/0 in the conference). The Mavs will likely have a tough time at The Ralph as the Fighting Hawks are 10-6-1 at home this season while the Mavs are struggling away from Baxter Arena (2-11-1 on the road). That said, both teams are fighting for points, and it looks like a couple of good games to end the regular season.

We asked Oliver Francies (co-founder of Seamore Sports, with his wife, Kelsey Lee Sagvold) for his insight into this weekend’s series.

“UND is a team built to go up 2-0 and win games 3-2. It’s not built to score goals in bunches,” Francies said.

The team was hampered by the loss of star players who left early — in particular, Brock Boeser (who would be a senior on the team) and Tyson Jost (who would have been a junior this year) — as well as injuries throughout the year. Grant Mismash has been injured since January and could possibly return for this weekend’s series. 

“The Fighting Hawks have had one consistent line pretty much all year — the Gavin Hain, Mark Senen, Cole Smith line — this is a line that utilizes speed and some skill with Hain and Senden, and grit and discipline from Smith to provide consistency and durability to the team,” he noted.

He added that sophomore Jasper Weatherby has improved his play since the two teams last played in January. “If you have not seen him play, but have seen UND at all the past five years, he will remind you of a guy like Austin Poganski,” he said. “When he plays with faceoff specialist Rhett Gardner on the wing, he is more easily able to provide a strong net-front (presence) and be really annoying to play against.”

If Mismash returns to play this weeked, Francies says “he would provide the closest thing to top-end scoring UND could have this season.” 

“This team will not win a game against the Mavs 5-4,” he adds. “If UND is able to earn points, it will be from consistent defense, Peter Thome filling in well for Adam Scheel, and timely goal scoring. If UNO gets anything more than a one-goal lead, the hill for UND gets a lot tougher to climb than nearly any other team in tourney contention in the top 20.”

Francies also provided his insight into UNO: “Whenever UND plays UNO, I think of two things: speed, and goaltending. Massa was superb for the Mavs and Wenninger has had a great career. Tomek, a UND transfer, will have a chance to reboot his career next season with the Mavs and has the pedigree to do so.”

“In addition, UNO — from Blais to Gabs — seem to be able to not only develop speed demons, but develop them out of nowhere. It is quite impressive that Blais was able to take a Grand Forks legacy in Morelli and — in combination with Gabs — develop him into a strong UDFA (undrafted free agent) who can score from anywhere on the ice,” he added.

“I think this is obviously a down cycle for UNO, but I also think they are on the cusp of getting back to the top half of the NCHC. Great facility, superb fans, and Gabs’ connections will ensure the viability of the Mavs for years to come,” he noted. “I’m looking forward to another great series between these storied programs.”

Note: Oliver and Kelsey started Seamore Sports because they wanted to cover stories in hockey and sports at large that they felt didn’t get the coverage they deserved. They started the blog in April 2016 to cover team Latvia which was playing in the U-18 Worlds in Grand Forks. Kelsey takes the majority of the UND Hockey photos. The duo have covered two hockey regionals (2017, 2018) and last year's Frozen Four. They have a four-month-old son and live in Grand Forks.

Read what Coach Gabinet and players Fredrik Olofsson and Ryan Jones had to say about last weekend's series and this weekend's matchup:
UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes (March 5, 2019)

Series preview articles:
OMavs — https://omavs.com/news/2019/3/7/hockey-mavericks-wrap-regular-season-at-no-19-und.aspx

North Dakota – https://fightinghawks.com/news/2019/3/6/mens-hockey-notes-home-ice-still-up-for-grabs.aspx


When:
> Friday, 7:37 p.m. CT
> Saturday, 7:07 p.m. CT

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. Pre-game coverage begins 30 minutes prior to face off. 

TV:
Both games will be broadcast on Midco Sports Network, and will air on YurView (Cox Channel 1013) in Omaha. Play-by-play will be handled by Alex Heinert, color will be provided by Jake Brandt, and Katie Hale is serving as the rinkside reporter. The games will also be streamed on NCHC.tv ($)

Update to TV info (via Mike Jaixen in the MavPuck Facebook Group):
Saturday night's game will also be on Fox College Sports Pacific, which is on CenturyLink Prism (channel 649 IIRC), DirecTV and Dish Network.

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


Also be sure to check out the 20th episode of the “MavPuckCast with Jason & Jon.” This week's segments: Pioneer Weekend, Dinner with the Mavs, New Jerseys, Old/Future Bull, North Dakota Preview



Next up: The Mavs are headed on the road for the first round of the NCHC playoffs, March 15-16. The opponent is yet to be determined but is likely either St. Cloud or Minnesota-Duluth … or possibly Denver.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes - March 5, 2019


UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, senior forward Fredrik Olofsson, and junior defenseman Ryan Jones answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on March 5, 2019.   

Gabinet & Co. fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series against Denver on March 1-2, and the upcoming series at North Dakota on March 8-9 in Grand Forks. 

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

THOUGHTS ON THE DENVER SERIES...

GABINET: “Even though we came away with a tie there, just a great weekend for the program. Took a lot of steps in the right direction. We did the game review on Monday and just watching the guys’ play on Saturday — to me, it’s just very, very impressive (I was telling the players) just to watch how committed they were to playing the right way, to doing the little things in their games that give you a chance at success, to see how far the guys have come and continue to challenge themselves. It’s just very uplifting as a staff.”

GABINET: “It takes a tough mindset to play like that consistently against such a good opponent.”

GABINET: “Some real big growth there that past weekend where we’re committed to doing things over and over and over again. Guys are starting to be more accountable to that, and it’s leading us to being in some tight games.”

GABINET: “That’s one of the favorite video sessions I’ve done out of the year on Monday.”

GABINET: “There’s nothing better than praising the guys. Because to me, praise what you want repeated.”

GABINET: “We’re slowly learning the level — and the way we have to play — to be competitive in this conference. And to have some structure in place there that they executed on consistently and to have a result — even though it wasn’t a win — it was a good tie. Especially with a comeback against a top five team in the country, I think that’s really rewarding. We have to continue to grow on that into this last two games of the regular season.”

ON THE UPCOMING NORTH DAKOTA SERIES...

GABINET: “I think the guys always get excited to play up there. We’ve had some past success up there, which is great. I mean, they’re gonna be hungry, too. They’re fighting for their lives, too. So it’s gonna be a very difficult series. They’re obviously a very good hockey team. They’re ranked in the top 20 now again. So we have to be ready to go.”

GABINET: “Last weekend was emotional for our senior group. You could tell there was an emotional thing in their eyes. Which is good and bad. It’s good when you can channel that into productivity. So I think it’s kind of nice now that maybe that last home weekend is over now. To me, now it’s about doing something special in however long we’ve got left to play.”

GABINET: “So hopefully they can channel that energy in the correct way here. And I think they will. It was a great practice yesterday. Short and hard and tense and highly competitive and I think they’re gonna really respond well up there in North Dakota.”

ON THE SENIOR GOALTENDERS...

GABINET: “One of the things that I always say is the game is fair, and it rewards you. I think you’re seeing that a little bit with Evan’s play in the second half here. He’s just been one of our top players in the second half — if not the top player in the second half.”

GABINET: “Blankenburg is another guy that comes and shows up and does the right thing day in and day out — whether you’re rewarded for it or not. To me, that’s a very, very high character indication of yourself. When you have the ability to be consistent in your approach — when sometimes the results aren’t there, with playing time and things like that.”

GABINET: “Very proud of both those guys. They’re setting the foundation for how guys should behave here.”

GABINET: “That’s been another big thing the seniors have quietly done this season is to set an example for how hard it takes. We don’t have quite the depth that maybe some of the other teams do in our conference, that freshman group can get a little bit comfortable in just showing up and going through the motions and expecting certain things to happen. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to have in a program. You want that competitive environment. You need guys to earn what they get here. And I think it’s been a good little wake-up call for our freshmen and our underclassmen. There’s accountability here and I think the seniors have upped their games, which helps ‘up’ the accountability to the younger guys. You’re not just going to get in the lineup because you’re showing up every day. You gotta earn something here. You gotta prove to the team, to (the) staff, to yourself (most importantly) that you’re improving every day. I think a lot of those seniors have done a great job taking lead of that and forcing guys to up their compete level. Again, there’s more to give, and we can give it.“

ON THE TEAM BEING READY TO PLAY IN GRAND FORKS...

GABINET: “I think we’ve got about 4 or 5 guys that are kind of all in the same window and we’re gonna play who is gonna give us the best chance to win and I like that fact — that you’ve gotta earn what you get. So, for right now, I think we’re gonna be as healthy as we’re gonna be for the postseason. Knock on wood. A couple guys were out yesterday, but hopefully they’ll be back for this weekend.”

GABINET: “This is the time of year where we can’t afford mistakes. We know what’s expected. The message has been clear. The communication has been clear. It’s time to show up and execute. With that comes accountability, and I think that’s a good thing for our program at this stage.” 

ON RECRUITING... IS IT STEADY THROUGHOUT THE SEASON? DOES IT GEAR UP AT CERTAIN TIMES?

GABINET: “If you talk to the staff, it’s definitely been consistent for the whole season long, just with the effort level going into recruiting. Yeah, it’s something that just never stops — you can’t let it stop. I think the biggest thing people have to understand is, again, just the strength of our schedule, and the conference we play in, that recruiting can never get left alone for too long a period or you’ll be playing big-time catchup.”

GABINET: “Our staff has done an excellent job this year of setting aside time for it to make sure it’s being taken care of, and it’s always at the forefront of our mind — while maintaining the proper level of care for our current players and preparation for the games at hand.”

GABINET: “People have to realize that you have to do the right thing over and over again for a long period of time just to be competitive in our league. We’re not talking about, you know, all the sudden we’re going to recruit well for 2-3 years and be better than St. Cloud all the sudden. That’s just to be competitive in our conference for how strong the conference is. And I think we’re making some real progress in there with identifying some good character individuals that are extremely talented that have bright futures in hockey if they maintain on the same path.”


WHERE THE TEAM IS AT FROM A MENTAL PERSPECTIVE...

JONES: “I think we’re feeling good right now. Especially coming off a game I thought went really well as a team on Saturday night. But we’re just trying to stay positive right now.”

OLOFSSON: “We’re excited. It’s kind of bittersweet for me. My four years here at Baxter have been amazing. I think the guys really responded with a lot of heart there on Saturday. And we kind of learned how we have to play every night. So just still building. Still getting better.”

ON THE NORTH DAKOTA SERIES...

OLOFSSON: “North Dakota has always just been a fun team to play against, whether it’s here or there. They’re always a chippy, hard-working team and it kind of brings the fight out of you.”

OLOFSSON: “It’s always exciting going up to The Ralph, too. Fun place to play. Usually gets a little rowdy, too. So that kind of makes us play a little harder.”

JONES: “It’s my favorite place on the road to play. Just because you always know you’re getting a battle. And, I think our team loves that, loves stepping up and proving people wrong. So, we know it’s going to be a hard fought weekend this weekend so we’re just going to get prepared for that.”

ON WATCHING THE CONFERENCE RACE...

OLOFSSON: “I haven’t looked at it too much. I mean, at the end of the day, if we want to make it far this year, we’re going to have to be able to beat any team in our conference. So I think just building up, getting better every week, and making sure we’re as ready as we can be with whoever we play. I think that’s ultimately going to serve us best." 

OLOFSSON: “When we’re kind of too focused on winning, or scoring goals, it’s kind of when it doesn’t work out for us. When we’re more process oriented — and not necessarily focused on the result — we usually end up playing better and building up better. So, I don’t really care who we play, we’ll be ready to prove them wrong." 

ON THE SATURDAY NIGHT TIE AGAINST DENVER...

JONES: “It just proved to us that playing the simple way is the way we’re gonna get the best results. Just having the team playing as a whole and trying not to do everything yourselves. Just the simple plays — like getting pucks deep going on our forecheck is one thing I think we’re really good at. So, I think, just keep making those simple plays and we’ll be fine.”

THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST SERIES AGAINST NORTH DAKOTA IN JANUARY AND HOW THAT IMPACTS THE FINAL SERIES OF THE REGULAR SEASON AGAINST THEM...

JONES: “As the years go on, they’re more of a hard-working team. I know in the past they were a lot of skill, and stuff like that. It’s just a new challenge for us, but we’re going to be ready for it.”

OLOFSSON: “Honestly, the year’s gone so quick and the early days in the season seem so long ago. I can’t remember too much about them. But, like Jonesy said, they’ve had years in the past where they’ve been kind of powerhouses — they had skill and grit combined. But this year, they’re more focused on being that hard-working team. That’s not knocking on any of their guys. That’s something we can kind of learn from, too. It’s not necessarily the talent at the end of the day that gets results.”

FEELINGS ON SENIOR NIGHT...

OLOFSSON: “When I was skating around doing my little lap — and I saw my parents and all that — I kind of broke down a little bit. I mean, it’s sad. It’s been an amazing four years here for me, getting to play and being close enough to where my family can come out and kind of see everything has been awesome. Yeah, we didn’t get that win, but I think it was kind of more of a moral victory for us being able to show that we can battle with the best of ‘em in the conference.”

OLOFSSON: “After the game, I wasn’t too sad, I guess. I was kind of more frustrated and down on myself. Because we had a chance to beat ‘em — be right there with ‘em. It’s just that execution is just a little better on their part. That’s kind of why we’re here in practice — getting better working on that so we’ll be ready when the next chance comes around.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

New Recruit: Brayden Stannard (F) - Oakland Jr. Grizzlies U16 AAA


The UNO Hockey coaching staff has been a group of busy bees. 

Escanaba, Michigan native Brayden Stannard announced via Twitter on March 1 that he had committed to Omaha (according to @hockeycommits he’ll arrive in the 2021-22 season). 

Stannard is a forward who currently plays for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies U16 AAA team. According to the team website, Stannard has racked up 12 goals and 22 assists in 49 games with the Grizzlies (and has a +22 rating). 

Stannard told MiHockey.com: “I picked UNO because it felt like home as soon as I saw it. The campus is amazing. The staff and everyone in Omaha is super friendly and fun to be around.” 


Prior to joining the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, Stannard played for Escanaba Senior High in 2017-18. In 23 games he had 20 goals and 7 assists (according to mihshockeyhub.com, he was a freshman).

When UNO was in the CCHA, Bridget and I made three trips to Michigan's upper peninsula to see the Mavericks play Northern Michigan University in Marquette. We're pretty familiar with the area and with Escanaba. 

Fun Tidbit: The Oakland Jr. Grizzlies Twitter account refers to Stannard as “Big Rig” and shared this video of the announcement that he’d committed to Omaha: 



It is always a challenge finding information on young recruits like Stannard. It will be interesting to see how his game develops the next couple of seasons, and where he eventually ends up playing his junior hockey. 

One thing is for sure, the coaches are doing their due diligence this season landing prospects for future seasons. That work should start to pay dividends the next few seasons. 

Stay tuned to mavpuck.com/news for future recruiting updates. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

New Recruit: Joaquim Lemay (D) - Séminaire St-Joseph M18


The recruits just keep on coming. 

In the last week, UNO has added four new recruits to its lineup for future seasons. The latest is U16 defenseman Joaquim Lemay who plays for Séminaire St-Joseph M18 in Quebec, Canada. 

The Académie De Hockey (Denis Francoeur) Twitter account made the announcement that 16-year-old Lemay is a verbal commit to Omaha for the 2021-22 season. 

I’m told there is excitement surrounding this young prospect. The belief is that he could become one of top defensemen to suit up for the Mavericks in the program’s short history. 

When it comes to Quebec-based recruits, I’m glad I have 7 years of middle school and high school French classes to fall back on so I can try and decipher some of the recruiting information online. 

In 27 games this season with Séminaire St-Joseph M18 (a Canadian prep school), Lemay has 5 goals and 17 assists. In the 2017-18 season with Collége Marie-De-L’Incarnation M18 (in the same prep school league), Lemay had 4 goals and 8 assists in 28 games during the team’s regular season.

He’ll have time to grow and develop over the next couple of seasons before joining UNO. His team site lists him at 5' 10". 

Here is a highlight compilation of Joaquim Lemay’s play:


According to EliteProspects.com, Lemay was drafted in 2018 by Rimouski Océanic in the QMJHL Entry Draft. As has been discussed before in our recruiting updates, “major junior” hockey is basically the equivalent of minor league hockey in Canada. 

Taking that into consideration, it’s a good idea for schools to gain a foothold with some of these top Canadian prospects before they go the “major junior” route because if they do end up playing “major junior” hockey — even one game — it can affect their NCAA eligibility.

I always use a bit of caution when it comes to young prospects like this in D-I hockey. With the way the game is structured — and the fact that most recruits play a season or two of junior hockey prior to joining a collegiate team — it is hard to gauge what will happen in the next two to three years. 

Be that as it may, it is good to see the coaching staff getting verbal commitments from recruits born in 2002. 

It’s also nice to have a coach on staff (Dave Noel-Bernier) who is a Quebec native. This is the third recruit from Quebec that UNO has in the pipeline (Alexandre Roy and Vincent Nardone are the other two). 

Stay tuned to mavpuck.com/news for all of our recruiting updates.