There have been several times this season where Nebraska Omaha head coach Dean Blais referred to certain victories as character wins, showing what his Mavericks are made of.
Where those sorts of triumphs are concerned, a playoff series win at St. Cloud State this weekend would be the biggest the Mavericks have earned at any point in the 2011-12 campaign.
That isn’t to say all signs going into this weekend are grim, though. Far from it, in fact.
The No. 7 seed Mavericks (14-6-6 overall in the regular season, 11-12-5 WCHA) travel to sixth-seeded SCSU (15-16-5, 12-12-4) with the Mavericks having lost each of their last four games, all at home. UNO played well in three of those four games, though, losing each of those three tilts 3-2, with two of those results coming in overtime.
What’s more, UNO has often played better hockey this season away from CenturyLink Center. The Mavericks come into the first round of the postseason having gone 6-5-3 in road league games this season. They finished the year below .500 (5-7-2) at home.
UNO has played well in recent meetings with the Huskies. The Mavericks are 4-1-1 in their last six games against SCSU, and UNO took three points against SCSU at home last Thanksgiving weekend.
Having said that, however, the Huskies come into this weekend’s series at the National Hockey Center on a hot streak. SCSU took three points from Minnesota Duluth at home last weekend – thus clinching home ice for the first round of the playoffs at UNO’s expense – and the Huskies are 5-2-1 in their last eight games. Both losses were only decided by one-goal margins.
SCSU starting goaltender Mike Lee missed much of the season due to injury, but he has since returned and shined in the Husky nets and will be key to any success this weekend’s host side earns.
Freshman goaltender Ryan Faragher served SCSU very well in Lee’s absence, but Lee has put up a .923 save percentage and 2.51 goals against average since returning to the lineup.
The biggest factor this weekend, though, may be the teams’ sense of pride. Both clubs have to win the WCHA playoffs to earn an NCAA tournament bid, and that will have left both feeling like underdogs – even playing against one another – going into the postseason.
This, perhaps more than any other in the WCHA this weekend, is anyone’s series to win. I personally see this best-of-three series ending in a third game on Sunday, and that game will likely come down to which team proves it’s the most keen to keep its season going.
Fri., Feb. 9: SCSU 3-1 UNO (Fist UNO scorer: Matt White)
Sat., Feb. 10: SCSU 0-2 UNO (First UNO scorer: Terry Broadhurst)
Sun., Feb. 11: SCSU 3-5 UNO (First UNO scorer: Jayson Megna)
NOTES: Friday’s game in St. Cloud, Minn. starts at 7:37 p.m.. Saturday’s game and Sunday’s (if necessary) are both scheduled for 7:07 p.m. drops…UNO freshman forward Jayson Megna was named Thursday to the WCHA all-rookie team. The newcomer from suburban Chicago scored 12 goals in the current campaign’s regular season and set up 12 others.