UNO Hockey Coach Mike Gabinet, senior forward Mason Morelli, and senior forward Fredrik Olofsson answered media questions as part of the “Omaha Athletics Weekly Media Availability” on Jan. 8, 2019.
Gabinet fielded questions regarding the UNO Hockey team’s series against Alaska Anchorage at Baxter Arena on Dec. 29 and 31, and the upcoming series at Denver on Jan. 11-12.
If you would like to watch the news conference, you can do so here.
THOUGHTS ON UPCOMING SERIES AT DENVER...
GABINET: “They [Denver] are coming off a big sweep over Wisconsin and I think they outshot Wisconsin two-to-one on Saturday night. So obviously they are playing at an extremely high level right now.”
GABINET: “We were talking as a staff yesterday — just watching guys' skill development throughout the season has been awesome.”
GABINET: “We’re excited to go out there and have a good series against Denver.”
SURPRISED BY DENVER MAINTAINING A HIGH LEVEL OF PLAY THIS SEASON?
GABINET: “I don’t think so. Both David [Carle] and their assistants there under Montgomery have done a great job recruiting. If you look at their roster, they’re not deep on seniors.”
GABINET: “They’ve got one of the highest [scoring freshmen classes in the country]. So any time you have a recruiting class like that — that’s contributing well — and they’re doing well — they’re one of those teams that just seems to reload every year. Got a couple draft picks there. Some good players. I think they’re doing a great job there at that program and the results are speaking for themselves.”
GABINET: “I also think we’re doing a good job, too. And our guys are getting better as well. So it’s gonna be a fun weekend coming up.”
ON THE TEAM’S LACK OF RECENT SUCCESS IN DENVER...
GABINET: “We’re just gonna really focus on ‘one day at a time’ right now — how are we getting better today and let the results be the results.”
ON THE TEAM’S INJURY SITUATION...
GABINET: “The bad news is, it hasn’t gotten any better. The good news is, we gotta good lineup. Jalen Schulz will probably play forward again this weekend for us there. I think we’ve got three or four guys out still, but hey, that’s okay. I thought guys stepped up last weekend, especially on Monday.”
GABINET: “We’ll have a young defense corps. And we’ll have Jalen playing up front for us. I thought he brought some energy, though, and brought a little toughness and hardness to the forward lineup. The type of kid he is, and the team guy he is, he takes on any challenge with a smile on his face and a work ethic to back it up. We’ll have who we have, and we’ll get after them.”
ON THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF MORELLI AND OLOFSSON THIS SEASON...
GABINET: “If you get the chance to come watch practice, and you would say in my three years here, ‘who’s been practicing the right way and learning on that and growing on that,’ those two guys' names pop into my mind right off the bat. For me, if you watch how they practice, they do the little things, they do the hard things consistently. To me, their practices look similar day in and day out. They don’t have one good one and one bad one.”
GABINET: “Anytime we do goalie practice, and we need shooters — they’re the first guys out there shooting pucks.”
GABINET: “I remember growing up I used to think, man, like ‘Crosby has always probably been a great player.’ When you get around the program and you know as many NHL coaches as I know — and you hear about the work ethic and the commitment level that those guys have — it’s no surprise. Then they have the talent to back it up. [Morelli and Olofsson] are no different. They are extremely talented, but they show up everyday. They work hard. They have attention to detail and it’s paying off for them now, and they’re improving defensively too.”
GABINET: “They’re gonna have a big second half for us here.”
ON THE FINAL MONTHS OF THE SEASON...
GABINET: “Our good friend of the program, Sam Spomer, still helps us out with some analytics and things like that. We had the hardest schedule in the history of the program last season. And now we have the hardest schedule in the history of the program this season. So, you’re not going to get those easy weekends.”
GABINET: “I just chose to have the mindset in the second half here we’re gonna get after teams. We’re gonna skate. We’re gonna compete. And our guys are getting better.”
ON WENINGER’S PERFORMANCE AGAINST UAA PROVIDING MOMENTUM IN THE SECOND HALF...
GABINET: “That’s one of the things, with experience, is you can draw on it. You actually did it. It’s one thing to talk about, it’s another thing to actually have the results and to do it. I told both the goalies before the second half, I challenged them and said our goaltending has to be better. We’re gonna play the guys that are in the starts in practice. They know that’s how we’re gonna operate, and I thought Evan had a good week of practice, and I thought Tomek is competing harder too. So we’re gonna base that on this week too. But I think for Evan to have the results there, and make the saves that he had to make, and he looked really sharp. I think he’s continued to look sharp this week in practice as well.”
PLAYER THOUGHTS ON THE SECOND HALF...
MORELLI: “It was a good weekend against Anchorage. Worked some of the cobwebs out. Anchorage worked hard and gave us good competition — a good battle. It was good to get back on track.”
OLOFSSON: “We just got our conditioning up in the off week, and then took some time to evaluate how we did against Anchorage. I think we’re ready to go.”
ON THE FACT THAT BOTH OF YOU ARE NEAR THE TOP OF THE LEAGUE IN SCORING...
OLOFSSON: “I haven’t really looked at it too much. I think we just come in every day trying to work and get better. Stay late after practice. Try and do extra. Just stuff like that. I guess leading from example is good for the team. When it comes to the actual points, I don’t think that’s something we try and worry about too much.”
MORELLI: “You just want to make sure, at the end of the night, you win. I think that’s our main focus.”
MORELLI: “We just want to be the best leaders we can, and ultimately get the win at the end of the night.”
PLAYER PERSPECTIVES ON LACK OF SUCCESS AT DENVER IN RECENT YEARS...
MORELLI: “It’s definitely in the back of our minds. Since freshman year we’re 0 and, I dunno, 15 or 16 or something like that, which is a little ridiculous. It’s something that we want to shatter — we want to break that trend. I think with this team, we can. Obviously, it’s not easy going to play in Denver.”
OLOFSSON: “We know how important this weekend is. For everyone that’s been here for our time — and even the juniors — it’s personal. We need to take care of business here. That’s one of mine — one of our team’s — goals this year is to give these guys a good fight. We’ll be ready.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE PLAYERS ARE NOW, COMPARED TO THE FIRST HALF...
OLOFSSON: “I definitely think we’re just clicking a little bit better. I mean, we were kind of fighting ourselves a lot in that first half playing against some good times. You can even tell, in practice, the execution is getting better. I still think we have a ways to go, even for myself, for Mason and our line.”
MORELLI: “We always just try to stress how important practice is, and how it needs to be harder than the game, and I think we’ve come a long way from September or August compared to now. Guys are starting to get it, and buy in. With Freddy and some of the seniors we have, and myself, I think we’re leading the right way and starting to figure it out a little more — and I think those younger guys — especially the ones that are playing big minutes — are kind of starting to chip in and buy in.”
HOW HARD WAS IT FOR MORELLI TO SIT OUT THE SECOND HALF OF LAST SEASON WITH AN INJURY SUSTAINED DURING THE HOLIDAY BREAK?
MORELLI: “It’s kind of hard to put into words. It was just something that’s kind of like ‘rock bottom’ in a way. Just being back now is all the more special, and — like Freddy said — we want to lead this team to some big things, and end on a very high note.”
ON BEING SENIORS AND THE APPROACHING END OF YOUR CAREERS AT UNO...
OLOFSSON: “It kind of kicks in when you hit senior year. I mean, it goes fast. You don’t really realize that as a freshman because the seniors are always on you. You’ll get it when you’re in our shoes.”
MAV ASSISTANT DAVE NOEL-BERNIER MENTIONED DURING THE SUMMER THAT — TO INCREASE OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION — THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING THE PUCK INTO THE CREASE AREA. IS GETTING THE PUCK AT THE GOALIE’S FEET ACCOUNTING FOR YOUR SUCCESS THIS SEASON?
OLOFSSON: “That’s something as a line and as a team we’re all trying to harp on — getting pucks into those areas. It’s not that we don’t have the same amount of skill as last year, but we’re just learning it’s easier to score goals when you’re closer to the net and you’re getting those rebounds. Not every goal is going to be a highlight reel goal, or a slapshot from the top of the circle, like Pope used to do. Getting dirty, getting greasy — that’s a good way to score. And that’s kind of like an identity we want to form for the team here.”
MORELLI: “I think that’s what works nowadays, in today’s game. The D are so good it’s hard to take them on one-on-one, and put it through through their feet and then go walk the goalie. It’s simple plays that make the biggest difference. Moving the puck low to high and having the D shoot. Getting a guy in front of the goalie’s eyes. Turning around and banging home a rebound or just grinding away in front of the net. That’s what works in today’s era of hockey. We kind of try to set the bar with that and play simple and play hard.
MORELLI: “Obviously, it’s nice to have a Tyler Weiss goal or something, when he dangles through the defenseman and makes the goalie look dumb. But nowadays, it’s all about the smart, simple plays and that’s what wins you games.”