Thursday, February 21, 2019

Series Preview: Omaha vs. St. Cloud, Feb. 22-23, 2019 at Baxter Arena



UNO Hockey is 0-6 against St. Cloud State since our niece Lauren started attending SCSU in Fall 2017. She'll be back this weekend to sit in Section 216 with us, probably wearing Huskies gear while cheering for both teams. We watched St. Cloud sweep UNO when we made the trip up to Minnesota in early December.

Buckle up, Maverick hockey fans. It's #HateState week.

But it's hard to hate on the Huskies. They're a really good team this year. St. Cloud State is in first place in the national polls and the conference with an overall record of 21-4-3 and a record of 13-2-3-1/1 in the NCHC. 

The Mavs split a pair of games with Miami two weeks ago, winning on Friday, but losing on Saturday. St. Cloud played Colorado College two weeks ago, and the Tigers put the pressure on the Huskies, taking both games to overtime. SCSU beat CC in a 3-on-3 overtime on Friday, and the Huskies also beat the Tigers on Saturday (but in the 5-minute overtime period).

We'll see if the Mavs can cause similar problems for the Huskies.

You can read what Coach Gabinet and players Ryan Galt and Zach Jordan had to say in an abbreviated "Weekly Media Availability" interview this week.
One note for fans: UNO decided to schedule a “Skate With the Mavs” after all. It will be held Sunday at Baxter Arena. The cost is $5 per child (the event is for kids 12 and under). More information here.
Series preview articles:


When:
> Friday, 7:07 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:
> Friday and Saturday's 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 18th episode of the “MavPuckCast with Jason & Jon.” This week's segments: Red Hawk Clippings, Odds & Ends, Mavs v. Huskies



Next up: The UNO Hockey team is back at Baxter Arena on March 1-2 vs. Denver.



UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes - Feb. 19, 2019


UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, senior forward Ryan Galt, and junior forward Zach Jordan answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Feb. 19, 2019.   

The three fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s bye week and the upcoming series against St. Cloud State on Feb. 22-23 at Baxter Arena. 

According to the @OmahaVid Twitter account, the university was not able to live stream the press conference due to another event at the arena. 

So, they posted a heavily truncated 4-minute version instead. 

If you would like to watch the video (starting at the 5:35 mark), you can do so here.

ON THE BYE WEEK...

GABINET: "Nice to get a break in the off week there. Hadn’t had a break since Christmastime, so I think it was really good for the guys to recharge and kind of refocus and have a little bit of time to teach and to recover, so definitely used the week to our advantage there and I thought the guys did a great job preparing for this week and now we’ve got the number one team in the country coming to town, so an exciting week for us to prepare for."

ON PLAYING ST. CLOUD STATE...

GABINET: "I think sometimes we take it for granted a little bit in our conference because we are constantly playing a third-ranked team or a first-ranked team but you have to think if Alabama was coming to play Nebraska football, it would be a pretty big occasion, or if our basketball team was playing the number one team in the country, and I think because of our strength of schedule, sometimes it gets overlooked as to how good of opponents we get here and so it’s something we hope our fans are really excited about. I know our guys are looking forward to the challenge, but it’s a big deal when the number one team in the country comes to play you."

ON THE TEAM'S PROGRESSION THIS SEASON...

GABINET: "I think it’s been a nice, you know, when the guys start to see some of the results of the commitment level that you have to have in order to succeed in this conference, at this level, and they start to get a little bit of a taste of that — that if I do these certain things, I’m starting to get rewarded for that, and I think it’s been that kind of a constant small steps in the second half here, so they have to continue with that mindset, that it’s not going to be easy when you’re facing the number one team in the country, there’s going to be setbacks, and adversity, and you’ve got to be ready to handle that, but it’s nice to see the guys slowly building that resiliency that’s really going to serve us well down the home stretch here."

ON ST. CLOUD STATE'S STRONG SEASON... 

GABINET: "Well, first off, if you just watch them play, just their ability to skate. We were just watching film before this here and their fourth and third line can absolutely fly out there and they are very, very tenacious on pucks, can move. They’ve done a very good job recruiting over the last several years and it’s paying off for them now. They have the ability to constantly be moving. They run a bunch of five man cycles and are constantly moving around the ice, so it’s very difficult to defend against. They spend a lot of time in other teams’ defensive zones, and with their ability to move and skate like that, it tires other teams out so they do a lot of good things, their compete level is high, but it’s a good challenge for us too. We’ve improved on that, we’re focused on that, so we’re ready for the opportunity to play these guys."


ON THE TEAM'S PROGRESS...

GALT: "It’s exciting. The seniors last year always describe it that way, where it kind of hits you when you don’t really expect it and it’s kind of true, but this year is a little bit different. We were in a better position last year at this time, like standings-wise, but this year is a little bit different because we’ve seen some absolute progression over this year, compared to last year, where we were good off the start and the finish. Where we didn’t have a great start this year, but seeing this team progress it’s really exciting to see what we can do here in the next month."

JORDAN: "I agree with Ryan. I think in the first half there were instances where we were playing the right way, and I think right now it’s just everybody is buying in and playing to their role much better, and it’s more like 55 minutes out of 60, not 20 [minutes] out of 60 and we’re starting to see even against Miami, we played well that Saturday night game — we lost, what 4-2, we played well for 50 minutes. Ten minutes we weren’t there, and I mean it just goes to show how close this league is and how quick things can happen [to] bury you. I think right now with us playing more and more consistently for more minutes of the game, it’s just going to keep get better for us."

ON THE TOUGH CHALLENGE AHEAD AGAINST ST. CLOUD...

GALT: "That’s how it works in this league. We’ve had the toughest schedule in UNO history, I think, three or four years running. And so every year it just gets harder for our team, but it also develops us even better. And it’s exciting to bring all these teams in here, but also, like we’re a really good team too — if we weren’t playing these teams, if say we were in the Hockey East, we’d be in the top 15 as well, just beating those other teams. So it’s tough playing St. Cloud, and Western, and Duluth and I think a lot of those teams from different leagues, say, “Oh, crap, we’re playing UNO, because they’re from the NCHC.” It’s just a high skilled league."

Friday, February 15, 2019

Wrapping Up The Weekend: Miami Series (Feb. 8-9, 2019)


By Connor Willingham

Gritty.

No, I’m not talking about the mascot. I’m talking about last weekend series. In two brutally fought battles against Miami University, the UNO hockey team was able to split with the RedHawks.

Friday’s game saw another standout performance from now three-time NCHC Goaltender of the Week Evan Weninger. Weninger stopped all 38 shots faced to surpass 3,000 career saves and is now rapidly approaching Dan Ellis’ career save record. Even though Miami dominated possession most of the night, the Mavs were able to stop the RedHawk offense while scoring three goals of their own, starting with a power play goal by Teemu Pulkkinen in the second period. The Mavs were able to wrap this one with two goals in the third with Ryan Galt and Mason Morelli (empty net goal).

Arguably, UNO played better on Saturday night. That said, they got behind early in the first period with two goals from Miami, and Weninger did not get in to a solid rhythm. The RedHawks also started off the second period with a goal before two goals from Chayse Primeau and Jalen Schulz narrowed the score to 3-2. The Mavs did not score again, however, and an insurance goal by Miami’s Josh Melnick sealed the deal. Saturday night’s win by Miami was their first non-exhibition win since November 17.

While many were hopeful for a sweep, a split by the Mavericks keeps them from hitting the bottom of the NCHC standings, crucial for any NCHC tournament run. UNO now has a bye week to rest up from last weekend’s battle before Saint Cloud State, ranked number one in the pairwise, comes to Baxter Arena.

Want more analysis about last weekend? Want a preview of the St. Cloud State series? Want to hear Jon (mistakenly) refer to Miami as the top team in the NCHC not once but twice? Then listen to the Mavpuckcast with Jason and Jon



OPPONENT WATCH
Colorado College put up a much bigger fight than expected against St. Cloud State, taking both games to overtime, showing once again how competitive each NCHC team can be every night. In the end, St. Cloud State “won the tie” in 3-on-3 OT on Friday, while winning outright in the first overtime on Saturday.

NCHC foes Denver, North Dakota, Duluth and Western all had bye weeks last weekend.


WEEKLY HONORS
UNO goaltender Evan Weninger was named the Bauer NCHC Goaltender of the Week for his heroics in the Miami series

RANKINGS
UNO remains 41st in the Pairwise rankings and — barring any surprises — will stay around that ranking. Complete list: www.collegehockeynews.com/ratings/ncaapwcr.php

UNO did not receive votes in either the USCHO.com or USAToday/USA Hockey Mazagine polls.

UNO remains at 7th in the NCHC. www.collegehockeynews.com/reports/conf/NCHC/9 

Connor Willingham is a periodic contributor to Mavpuck.com and a moderator of the Mavpuck Facebook group. He graduated from UNO in 2014 and is an avid follower of UNO and college hockey. You can find him on Twitter at @INTLMAV.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

UNO Hockey Recruiting Update (Feb. 2019)


Back on Nov. 7 (remember that far back?) we posted a look at UNO Hockey’s recruits for 2019 and beyond. 

In the intervening months, we’ve written individual profiles of the incoming recruits who have committed to UNO since our November update was published. You can read those write-ups at the following links:







It will be interesting to see when the various recruits land at UNO. Some of the 2019 class signed NLIs last November during the early signing period (the next signing period for D-I hockey begins in April). 

The ideal roster size is 26-28 players per season. UNO’s freshman class for the 2019-20 season will be rather large, if the commitments below hold. UNO has 10 departing seniors from this year’s roster, but 12 (or more) players projected as coming in the fall. In addition, UNO is likely to add another goaltender in the spring, since both Evan Weninger and Alex Blankenburg are seniors.

Years ago, I remember David Quinn — a UNO assistant at the time — talked about trying to achieve “balance” in recruiting classes. The goal was to have six or seven players per class — meaning the roster wouldn’t be gutted after any particular class graduated. 

Since our comprehensive recruiting update last fall, there have been some changes to the classes. Here’s how 2019 is looking (as of the publication of this blog post):

2019 RECRUITS

Forwards
Josh Boyer - Madison (USHL) - signed NLI
Joey Abate - Youngstown (USHL) - signed NLI
Nolan Sullivan - Muskegon (USHL) - signed NLI
Noah Prokop - Green Bay (USHL) - signed NLI
ADDED - Ryan Brushett - Powell River (USHL) - Signed NLI
ADDED - Matt Miller - Sioux City (USHL) - committed Jan. 7, 2019
ADDED - Brock Bremer - Muskegon/Lincoln (USHL) - committed Nov. 15, 2019

Defensemen
Alexandre Roy - Jamestown (NAHL) - signed NLI
Colby Enns - Central Illinois (USHL) - signed NLI
ADDED - Kirby Proctor - Des Moines (USHL) - signed NLI
ADDED - Brandon Scanlin - Brooks (AJHL) - signed NLI

Goaltender
Isaiah Saville - Tri-City (USHL) - signed NLI

This list has changed a bit since November. Davis Pennington was listed as part of the 2019 class, but he looks to be part of the 2020-21 class now. In addition, Jack Clement was originally listed for 2019, but he will be attending Miami (OH) in the fall. 

Our working assumption is that both Bremer and Miller (added to the “Forwards” list) will join UNO as part of the 2019-20 class, but neither has signed a National Letter of Intent with the team (as far as we can tell in our research). 

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS

Statistically speaking, here is what the 2019-20 recruits look like (at the time of this writing at 1 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2019):

Forwards
Josh Boyer - In 40 games: 9 goals, 9 assists (3rd on Madison in points) | -14 
Joey Abate - In 39 games: 9 goals, 13 assists (7th on Youngstown in points) | -11 
Nolan Sullivan - In 42 games: 14 goals, 4 assists (11th on Muskegon in points) | +8 
Noah Prokop - In 39 games: 9 goals, 5 assists (10th on Green Bay in points) | -17 
Ryan Brushett - In 51 games: 37 goals, 38 assists (1st on Powell River in points) | N/A
Matt Miller - In 37 games: 11 goals, 11 assists (5th on Sioux City in points) | +1 
Brock Bremer - In 39 games (was traded to Lincoln mid season): 11 goals, 14 assists | +1 

Defensemen
Alexandre Roy - In 44 games: 3 goals, 16 assists (10th on Jamestown in points) | +11
Colby Enns - In 39 games: 3 goals, 7 assists (16th on Central Illinois in points) | -9 
Kirby Proctor - In 42 games: 1 goal, 14 assists (10th on Des Moine in points) | +6 
Brandon Scanlin - In 33 games: 14 goals, 18 assists (14th on Brooks in points) | +3

Goaltender
Isaiah Saville - In 23 games, has a 1.76 GAA and a .934 save % (stopping 553 of 592 shots)

When you look at the forwards slated to come in next season, the player who stands out in terms of pure point production is Ryan Brushett — the top point producer in the BCHL with 37 goals and 38 assists (in 51 games). 

Brushett is a ‘98 birthday, so he is older than some of his peers in the league (this is his fourth season playing junior hockey — one season in the USHL, three seasons in the BCHL). He was originally a Providence commit (May 2015). 

The rest of the skaters on the list (all playing in the USHL) don’t rank higher than 70th in the USHL in terms of total points (Bremer is ranked 70th as of this writing). 

Nolan Sullivan is 37th in the USHL in goals. Bremer is 58th in the league in goals. Miller is ranked 60th in goals. Abate is 84th. Boyer is 88th. Prokop is 91st. 

Saville is the lone goalie commit (so far) for 2019-20. He hasn’t played since Jan. 19 (injury). Saville did make NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings (read our post “UNO Recruits Saville, Proctor in NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Player Rankings” for more information). 

FUTURE RECRUITS

2020 RECRUITS

Forwards
Lukas Sillinger - Penticton (BCHL)
Oliver MacDonald - Muskegon (USHL)
Zach Michaelis - Chaska (HS)
Blaine Warnert -  Chaska (HS) / Fargo Force (USHL)
Davis Pennington - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (NAHL)
ADDED Vincent Nardone - Flin Flon (SJHL)
ADDED Tyler Rollwagen - Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Prep)

Defensemen
Greg Japchen - Wilkes-Barre (NAHL)

2021 RECRUITS

Forwards
Cameron Berg - Omaha (USHL)

Defensemen
Griffin Ludtke - Lakeville South (HS) 

We’ve profiled both players listed as “ADDED” in the 2020-21 class — Nardone and Rollwagen. There is some debate as to when Rollwagen will arrive at UNO (three different recruiting sites have three different years). Rollwagen has 14 goals and 43 assists with Shattuck-St. Mary’s as of this writing. Nardone has 17 goals and 20 assists in his rookie season with Flin Flon (SJHL).

The rest of the 2020s are a mixture of junior players and high school prospects. Sillinger has 14 goals and 6 assists for the Penticton Vees this season (which ranks him 5th on the team in goals, and 12th in total points).

FINAL THOUGHTS

The big question with the 2019-20 recruiting class is whether they can provide immediate aid to a UNO team that has struggled in the 2018-19 campaign. 

Anywhere from a third to a half of the roster next season will be newcomers. 

With UNO looking at one of the largest freshman classes in recent history, it will be fascinating to see how the team fares next season. 

It is possible that a fresh look will be just what the doctor ordered to help remedy UNO's woes this season. Only time will tell, but it will be exciting to see how the new pieces fit into the lineup next season. 

We'll be back to do an update after the season is over. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes - Feb. 12, 2019


UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, senior goaltender Evan Weninger, and senior defenseman Jalen Schulz answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Feb. 12, 2019.   

The three fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series at Miami on Feb. 8-9, the bye week, and the upcoming series against St. Cloud State on Feb. 22-23 at Baxter Arena. Here are excerpts.

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

ON THE SERIES AT MIAMI...

GABINET: “Good game Friday night there. Nice to come away with a victory there. Actually thought we played probably a little bit better on Saturday night — besides the first 10 minutes of the game.”

ON THE BYE WEEK...

GABINET: “I think we’re looking forward to the bye week this weekend. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a break. With our schedule we’ve had — with the quality opponents we’ve had — I think everybody is looking forward to working on a few things we need to clean up in our game, and recharging the batteries, and taking steps.”

GABINET: “I think it’s nice to get a little bit of a chance to catch your breath a little bit, to catch up on some recruiting things, and other things too — away from the game — that come with the job.”

TEAM’S FOCUS DURING THE BYE WEEK...

GABINET: “I think sometimes the tendency in a bye week is to relax and catch your breath a little bit. Which is part of the purpose, but it can’t be a wasted week. I think we have to look at our game, we had a good captain’s meeting yesterday — even asking the players’ input on what they feel we need to continue to improve at to be successful — and making sure that we’re shoring up some of those concepts and systems here. With St. Cloud coming into town, we need to use it to our advantage.” 

ON INJURIES...

GABINET: “We lost a couple d-men there right before the trip to Miami, and then one in Miami. So, we have six d-men right now, so everybody is going to be playing that’s healthy. It’s been kind of a theme for the whole season. Hopefully some of those guys can get a little breather.”

GABINET: “We’ve got some guys — like Primeau and those guys that have been out for eight weeks — that I think still need to take some steps in their conditioning and use this time to their advantage.”

ON THE RECRUITING PROCESS...

GABINET: “I remember talking to [former UNO assistant] David Quinn about his experiences coaching and why he enjoyed going to coach pro a little bit — because you don’t have to recruit. I think when you’re playing ‘catch up’ it’s a huge, huge part of the job, and very time-consuming. And yet, as you see in our conference, it’s probably the most important thing to do. So, it’s been a grind for us.”

GABINET: “Paul [Jerrard] just got back yesterday. Dave [Noel-Bernier] drove four hours after the game in Miami and was in Detroit on Sunday. Paul drove all the way back from Winnipeg yesterday.”

GABINET: “It's been a grind, but we’re making some progress. The way it works now is there’s no quick fixes. You have to do things the right way for a long time.”

GABINET: “I think there was an article the other day about Brad Berry still having Hakstol’s recruits there. That’s just how it works now in hockey. A lot of these high, high end players are recruited three [or] four years out. So it’s important that we get eyes on those younger players.”

GABINET: “And then continue to work on improving our current roster with some of the late bloomers out there as well.”

GABINET: “To me, it’s probably the most grinding part of the job. You’ve gotta learn to enjoy the grind as we tell our players, and keep taking steps forward in that process.”

GABINET: “Experience is a positive. You get to know the different leagues, the different coaches. Now Paul is going through that same thing now, and I went through the year before, and Dave went through it last year.”

GABINET: “You can definitely see why the staffs that have been together for a long time have a leg up on other programs. Just because they’re so well connected. A lot of it’s word of mouth now and being connected and knowing the right people.” 

GABINET: “It’s definitely nice to see Dave do such a good job in working so hard this year on it. Then Paul, getting his feet wet as well. He’s got a huge network as well — Paul Jerrard does with his past history. Tapping into that and getting to know the age groups. It’s tough when you’re talking about ‘04s, ‘03s, ‘02s, ‘01s, ‘99s, ‘98s.”

GABINET: “I remember when I first came it was a little bit overwhelming. And you start to get a grasp on that now — seeing the different levels, and seeing kids up in Canada, and seeing kids in Europe, seeing kids in the States, and comparing them. The U16s in Michigan compared to them in Chicago, compared to them in Canada, to Midget AAA.”

GABINET: “I’ll have to take off this weekend here to go up to the Canada Winter Games for a little bit.”

GABINET: “It’s lots of work, but it’s also fun. We’re talking to some really good kids and get to explain how excited we are about Omaha, and what we have to offer here, and getting the word about Omaha and our program here and our university. To me, that’s something I really enjoy talking about.”


DOES THE TEAM HAVE THE ABILITY TO PLAY ITS BEST HOCKEY AT THE END OF THE SEASON...

GABINET: “I think so. I think we’ve shown it. I think that’s one of the positives of the last eight games, I guess, against these top-ranked opponents where we’ve been one goal away, or tied, or in a position to have a chance at success.”

GABINET: “I think it’s really important that we keep taking those steps, but also recognizing what we’re doing to give us a chance to get those good results. We got a little bit away from it on Saturday night. We didn’t finish a couple tracks. We dove at one play there. It’s just two mental lapses and they’re in the back of your net and now you’re playing catch up.” 

WAYS THE TEAM PLAYED BETTER ON SATURDAY...

GABINET: “When we were doing things right, we really skated, I thought. We usually have a pretty hard F1. But we need F2 to skate as well. You’ve gotta get up in the play and your d-men have to be connected to the play. You gotta not let them out of their zone for free.”

GABINET: “We ended up outshooting them and having way more o-zone time than we did on Friday night.”


ON THE BYE WEEK...

WENINGER: “I think it’s good timing for us, honestly. We had a tough schedule the last couple weeks — pretty much since Christmas, honestly. It’s definitely good timing, and I think our team has taken a lot of big steps since Christmas, and this week kind of just gives us a chance to reflect and then kind of look forward to this last three weeks of the season and try and push for fifth or sixth place in the conference at least.”

WENINGER: “We have the opportunity. It’s there for us. We’ve just got to take advantage of it.”

ON YOUR PLAY IN THE SECOND HALF THIS SEASON...

WENINGER: “I think it has a lot to do with the team, the staff, and kind of just the support that I’ve had. Obviously, the first half wasn’t great. It was kind of a struggle at times. When I went home at Christmas, I kind of just went and relaxed, reset, and kind of just said ‘it’s a new season.’”

WENINGER: “Obviously, we’re not sitting well in the PairWise. With this conference and our schedule, we still have a chance to make some noise, and give ourselves a chance to kind of make the tournament.” 

WENINGER: “It’s nice having a staff that’s so task-oriented and focuses on the little things and helps you kind of pinpoint, ‘Hey, this is something that we need to work on,’ or ‘This is a tendency of the team we’re playing against coming up.’”

ON MOTIVATION TO DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT IN THE POST-SEASON...

WENINGER: “It’s definitely a big, big motivating factor. You look at the senior class, none of us have really had that post-season success here. We’ve gotten swept twice, lost in game three against Western there our sophomore year. We’re confident going against any team in the league. We’ve at least given every team a close game, if not beat them.” 

WENINGER: “I think we’re one of the more resilient teams in the country. Especially looking at how tough our opponents have been. I’m proud of the guys we have.” 

WENINGER: “If we put everything together and we all buy in, we can make some noise.”


ON FINISHING STRONG...

SCHULZ: We’re just really focusing on bettering our systems and everything like that — so that when we do go up against St. Cloud, North Dakota, and those guys — we’ll be ready for them.”

ON PLAYING FORWARD AT POINTS IN THE SECOND HALF...

SCHULZ: “It’s been fun. It wasn’t much of a shock, I guess, being at forward, because I was there a little bit my freshman/sophomore year under Blais.”

SCHULZ: “I get to do something a little different for once. In practices, guys are always chuckling, making fun of me and stuff, but they make it fun.”

ON JALEN’S CAREER AT UNO COMING TO A CLOSE...

SCHULZ: “You think about it a little bit here and there.”

SCHULZ: “You try to think about it the best way you can. Try to put the team first, and think about what you can to make sure the team is winning.” 

ON THE TEAM MAKING A PLAYOFF RUN...

SCHULZ: “At the end of the day, we just have to go out and win. That’s the bottom line.”

SCHULZ: “I think in three weeks, four weeks, whenever the regular season is over, I think we’ll know more.” 

ON THE UP AND DOWN NATURE OF THE SEASON...

SCHULZ: “They always say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

SCHULZ: “The attitude in the lockerroom is that everybody is positive, no matter what the circumstances are.”

ON THE TEAM’S FEELINGS REGARDING EVAN WENINGER’S SUCCESS...

SCHULZ: “He works his bag off every single day, and it shows every weekend on the ice in the games. He’s a great player, but he’s a better person.”

Friday, February 8, 2019

Series Preview: Omaha at Miami (OH), Feb. 8-9, 2019


General hockey observers might not think a matchup between the two teams at the bottom of the NCHC heap would be particularly compelling. 

Yet the narrative percolating around this weekend’s matchup between UNO (8-16-2 overall, 4-11-1-1 in the NCHC) and Miami (9-15-4 overall, 3-11-2-1 in the NCHC) has its intrigues. 

Two conference points separate Omaha (14 points) and Miami (12 points), who are seventh and eighth in the standings, respectively. With six points on the line this weekend — and Colorado College sitting in sixth place at 17 points — things are in flux as teams jockey for conference playoff positions. 

Fans on the Internet have spent considerable time this season mulling over the departure of former UNO assistant Peter Mannino, who went to Miami after the 2017-18 season. It would likely be a non-story if a handful of Mannino’s UNO recruits hadn’t decided to join him in balmy Oxford, OH. 


Miami Coach Enrico Blasi’s RedHawks made the NCAA tournament eight straight seasons prior to the start of NCHC play in 2013 — including a wildly entertaining national title game against Boston University in the 2009 Frozen Four.

In the intervening years, Miami has had just one winning season (2014-15), and has struggled to regain the prowess they had during the CCHA days. 

During the Dean Blais era (and Mike Gabinet’s first season at the helm in 2017-18), UNO tallied 17-plus wins in all but one season (2011-12). 

UNO has struggled achieve consistency this season — winning 4 of the past 14 games. Miami is in even worse shape, going winless in its last 14 (the lone victory an exhibition win against the Guelph Gryphons). 

The two teams split the series on Nov. 2-3 at Baxter Arena.

On paper, you would presume UNO had the upper hand in the matchup in Oxford this weekend. However, you never know what might happen in a scuffle between teams struggling to improve totals in the win column. 

Series preview articles:



When:
> Friday, 5:38 p.m. CT
> Saturday, 6:05 p.m. CT – “Tribe & University Series”

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:
> Friday’s game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network
> Saturday’s game 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 17th episode of the “MavPuckCast with Jason & Jon.” This week's segments: One Ref Away, On The Road, Not That Miami 




Next up: The UNO Hockey team is back at Baxter Arena on Feb. 22-23, facing top-ranked St. Cloud State. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

UNO Hockey Press Conference Notes - Feb. 5, 2019


UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, senior forward Ryan Galt, and freshman defenseman John Schuldt answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Feb. 5, 2019.   

Gabinet & Co. fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series against Western Michigan on Feb. 1-2, and the upcoming series at Miami (OH) on Feb. 8-9 in Oxford, OH. They are excerpted below.

If you would like to watch the entire hockey news conference (starting at the 12:15 mark), you can do so here

LOOKING BACK AT THE WESTERN MICHIGAN SERIES...

GABINET: “Friday night was a good effort by us, I thought. Right in the mix there; come back to tie it up 3-3. Obviously, unfortunate events there for them to get a power play at the end there and come away with a win.”

GABINET: “Reflecting on it, we can’t give them that third goal with under a second left, and that’s something we have to continue to improve on.”

GABINET: “When you’re playing against league competition, you have to learn from your mistakes and you’ve got to continue to evolve, because there’s just no room for error at this level.”  

GABINET: “Meeting with the players on Saturday and talking about that, I was very frustrated after the second period with the group.”

GABINET: “The exciting thing is you can see the level of care from the players, when you talk to the players about making mistakes and learning. They’re almost emotional about it how bad they feel about their mistakes and letting the team down. It’s heartbreaking to see them like that. But it’s really reinforcing how much they care, and how much they’re buying into what needs to be done to be successful.” 

GABINET: “But in the same breath, this is the NCHC. It’s extremely high-level hockey and you can’t make those mistakes.” 

GABINET: “Nice to see better effort from guys on Saturday with some of those details that are important being successful in the game.”

GABINET: “To come back Saturday after getting beat was very positive.” 

ON THE BENEFIT OF CLOSE-FOUGHT WEEKENDS LIKE THE WMU SERIES...

GABINET: “Like boxing, we’ve been knocked down to the canvas a bunch of times this season, but we keep getting back up.”

GABINET: “Eventually it’s going to get harder to knock us down. That speaks to the level of resilience and grit the team is developing. That’s going to serve them well in hockey — and in life — to have that mentality.” 

GABINET: “We can’t sugarcoat some of the mistakes we’re making, either. We have to make some quick corrections with that.”

GABINET: “I’m just really proud of the group. I just feel like the guys care. The guys are working hard. Against good teams like [WMU], there’s going to be mistakes.”

ON TAYLOR WARD AND THE “MOW” LINE...

GABINET: “It’s been exciting, and you need that. They’ve probably been our most potent scoring line. When those guys are producing, we have a chance to be successful.”

GABINET: “I think Taylor is fortunate to be playing with those two players. They’ve really put a lot of work in over their careers.”

GABINET: “Seeing how they work, and the level they compete at, is helping rub off on him, too.” 

GABINET: “His stick is getting better and it’s been fun to watch.”

ON THE MIAMI SERIES AND THE DRAMA SURROUNDING THE DEPARTURE OF ASSISTANT PETER MANNINO TO THE REDHAWKS... 

GABINET: “You’re going to prepare the best you can to be successful. It doesn’t change every week for us. It’s the same approach.” 

GABINET: “With the standings and the urgency of the situation we have, it’s a very important weekend for us — just like it was against Western.” 

GABINET: “For our players, I don’t know if they know the full extent of what’s going on. Like I said before, it’s like having a fight in front of your kids, I don’t think you need to do that. It’s best we just worry about ourselves.”

GABINET: “Just like the officiating, we need all the energy we can. Let’s not let a team score in the last minute of the period. Let’s focus on that first, rather than worrying about anything else.”

ON THE TEAM’S ROAD RECORD...

GABINET: “We’re not walking into a 50th-ranked team for an easy road weekend.”

GABINET: “It’s tough, but we have to find a way to do it. I think, maybe early on, it would be about switching up our routine, or doing something different, and we’ve tried that, and things like that. Now, it is what it is. We’ve got to be ready to go. We’ve got to find a way to win some hockey games here.”

ON OFFICIATING...

GABINET: “It’s been some head-scratching times, I think, at times this season with the consistency level.”

GABINET: “We’ve got a great league and a great commissioner and all that stuff. So I’m sure they’re going to take the appropriate actions to make sure they’re doing the best they can.”

GABINET: “Just like us, those guys are getting better and improving. I’ve got full trust in the league that they’re going to do everything they can and [making] sure the consistency level is one of the best in the country.” 

ON DEFENSEMAN RYAN JONES...

GABINET: “I think just our D-corps in general has gotten better from the start of the season. Not only Jones, but a lot of guys are taking small steps in the right direction.”

GABINET: “He’s a guy that we’ve challenged to continue to elevate his game.”

GABINET: “He needs to play at a certain intensity level — when he’s at his best game, but not over-the-edge where he’s taking penalties. So he’s worked really hard about keeping that intensity level high with having emotional control.” 

GABINET: “When he’s playing at that level, to me, he’s one of the top guys on our team.”


PLAYER REACTIONS TO THE WESTERN MICHIGAN SERIES...

GALT: “The past month, month-and-a-half, we’ve played some really good hockey against these teams.”

GALT: “These are really good teams. Especially Western. They’re probably the hottest team in the second half so far.” 

SCHULDT: “A lot of the guys aren’t happy with where we are in the standings. And that’s a good thing. But, I’d say we’re happy at where we’re going, and how much we’re improving week-to-week. We just need to figure out how to be consistently good.”

SCHULDT: “At the beginning of the year, I thought this season had the potential to be a nightmare. The older guys just kept calming us down: This isn’t how it’s going to be this year. It’s going to get better. There’s just been a lot of perseverance through the adversity.”

SCHULDT: “Through the second half now, we’re a completely different team, with a completely different mindset. It’s been a lot more fun through the second half.” 

ON FIGHTING THROUGH ADVERSITY AND THE GREATER SCHEME OF THINGS...

GALT: “We’ve developed a lot as a team over this year.”

GALT: “We say that every year. We’re gonna go far, or we’re gonna do this and that. But I truly believe that this team is almost there — on the cusp of a really good playoff run.”

GALT: “We’ve been playing really, really well against these top-tier teams.”

GALT: “Just like every other year that I’ve been here, it’s do or die in the first round of the playoffs. But I think it’ll be a lot of fun. It’ll be a challenge. But we’ve gone through so many challenges this year.”

ON THE DEPARTURE OF ASSISTANT COACH MANNINO TO MIAMI AFTER ONE SEASON AT UNO AND HOW THAT MIGHT IMPACT THE SERIES AT MIAMI...

GALT: “With the off-ice stuff, and Mannino and all of that, it’s a huge weekend for us. They’re behind us in the standings. So we want to kind of break ourselves away from that.”

SCHULDT: “That first series was a very important series, but this one is even more important for the standings race right now where it’s at. If one team would get six points, that would be a huge benefit for that team.”

ON THE COACHES NOT SHAKING HANDS IN THE NOVEMBER SERIES AGAINST MIAMI... AND THE AWKWARD RELATIONSHIP THE COACHING STAFF HAS WITH FORMER ASSISTANT MANNINO...

GALT: “It’s just sports, I guess. I mean, you see it a lot in football. It’s just not very common in hockey. We don’t know all the information or anything like that, but it was interesting, I guess. It’s not a massive deal to us what happened on the ice.”

SCHULDT: “He [Mannino] recruited me. I never had a problem with him. That’s all I’ll say.” 

SCHULDT’S FEELINGS ON WORKING WITH ASSISTANT PAUL JERRARD THIS SEASON... AND THE BENEFITS JERRARD HAS BROUGHT THE TEAM...

SCHULDT: “He’ll pull all the D together at the end of practice — even after the practices where we can barely skate anymore — and we’ll be doing an extra 15-20 minutes of foot work and the real meat-and-potatoes stuff that I’d say we weren’t all quite up to par with at the beginning of the year. And I think that’s really paid off for a lot of us, which has made our D-corps a lot stronger in the second half.”

FEELINGS ON THE DO-OR-DIE NATURE OF SATURDAY’S GAME AGAINST WMU AFTER THE HEARTBREAKING FRIDAY LOSS...

GALT: “The win was massive for our team. Especially against that hot of a team. I think it was a massive weekend overall. It just shows how much adversity that we’ve overcome this year.”

GALT: “It just proves that we are a really good team. We can beat any team. We just have to play the right way consistently for 60 minutes.” 

SCHULDT: “I think it’s been cool seeing how, at the beginning of the year, people would get really rattled or affected by losses easily.”

SCHULDT: “The first couple of weekends, we’d let frustration on Friday night carry over to Saturday. But at this point in the season, we’ve seen so much adversity that when it’s done, it’s done. And a lot of the guys will just forget about it, move on, and do their best Saturday night.”

ON OFFICIATING... AND THE INCONSISTENCY OF CALLS...

GALT: “It’s very hard. The last three years before this year, there were a lot more hits and things like that that haven’t been called, that were just part of the game. You can’t really make hockey into a non-contact sport. It’s honestly very hard to figure out, ‘Oh, can I hit this guy or not?’ And In a game you have 1.5 seconds to figure out, ‘Okay, is this going to be a 5? Am I going to play tomorrow? Okay, I’ll hit him and then whatever happens, happens.”

GALT: “It’s tough to not have consistency, but that’s just the way this season has gone for us. We’ve just got to continue to battle through that adversity.”