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 —

North Dakota –

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

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. 

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 ($)

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.

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