I’m sure the irony of this being done by someone who majored in secondary education at university is lost on no one. But I digress.
Anyway, with Nebraska Omaha’s 2011-12 season having come to an end by way of a WCHA playoff first round sweep at the hands of St. Cloud State last weekend, it’s time for us to assess the Mavericks’ campaign as a whole.
On the surface, the Mavericks’ campaign looks a disappointment. UNO ended the season 14-18-6 overall and 11-12-5 within the WCHA, and the team was one of the league’s first to leave to postseason party.
There are a lot of things that head coach Dean Blais and his staff will have to work with their players on to make sure 2012-13 is a more successful campaign for the Mavericks. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as there were some bright spots.
Here is my itemized report card for UNO’s 2011-12 season. If you agree or disagree with anything I’ve written below, let me know in the comments at the bottom of this article.
Several of the Mavericks’ leading lights up front produced flashes of brilliance in 2011-12, but, on the whole, UNO’s strike force left much to be desired.
Sophomore Matt White had a very good second season in Omaha, netting 17 goals and hitting the 40-point mark for the campaign. Newcomer Jayson Megna (13 goals, 18 assists) was another big hit, putting in as brilliant a performance from a Maverick rookie as any the program has seen in years.
Beyond that, though, UNO’s attacking output dipped considerably. Junior forward Terry Broadhurst (16 G, 20 A) finished second in scoring for the Mavericks, but he looked snakebit at many points in the second half of the season. Ditto for freshman Josh Archibald (10 G, 5 A), who started the season very brightly but was largely quiet later on in the campaign.
The departure of senior Alex Hudson in mid-December after a second team rules violation couldn’t have helped matters, either. UNO went 1-3 at the start of the season without Hudson and was 8-5-3 in 2011-12 in games where he featured.
There is cause for optimism here for next season, though. White is on an upward trajectory in terms of performances year-on-year, Broadhurst will want to go out with a bang in his senior season, and White and Jayson Megna both have the potential to turn into the biggest stars UNO has seen since the days of Scott Parse and Bill Thomas in the mid-2000s. Maverick fans just need to be patient there.
As much as UNO’s sporadic attacking problems made the Mavericks’ navigation through the 2011-12 season more difficult at times than it should have been, defensive inconsistencies made things worse.
Junior blueliner Bryce Aneloski (6 G, 14 A) put in a decent season as UNO’s top offensive defenseman, and sophomore Andrej Sustr has been transformed into better all-around defenseman with good use of his 6-foot-8 frame and improved development of his hands and feet. We also got a better sense this season of what sophomore d-man Michael Young can do at the back for the Mavericks.
As a collective, though, UNO’s defensive corps had a sub-par season. It isn’t entirely down to the defense – UNO’s goaltenders have to take some of the blame for this, as well – but the Mavericks finished in ninth place in the WCHA in scoring defense, allowing 2.95 goals per game.
UNO conceded a total of 112 goals in the regular season – 30 more than MacNaughton Cup-winning Minnesota – and that’s a number that will need to shrink next season in order for UNO to finish higher in the league table in the program’s final season in the WCHA.
Freshman netminder Ryan Massa had a decent first season with the Mavericks, putting together a 2.59 goals against average and .914 save percentage, but things get a bit blurrier as we go lower on the depth chart.
Redshirt junior John Faulkner (2.93 GAA, .886 SV%) had a disappointing season by the standards he’d set previously. What’s more, none of UNO’s four goaltenders – including redshirt sophomore Fredrik Bergman and freshman Dayn Belfour – did enough to make the starting goalie’s job their own until Massa finally won the role in the home stretch of the season.
Faulkner will be back for the 2012-13 campaign, but, in order to take back the No. 1 job from Massa, Faulkner will have to wake up the echoes and put in a similar performance to that which earned him third team All-WCHA recognition in 2010-11.
One of UNO’s four current goaltenders is likely to leave during the offseason, as well, unless Blais decides to redshirt incoming freshman Anthony Stolarz.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
As the 2011-12 season wound down, there were probably times where UNO was borderline happy to play a man down. The Mavericks scored ten shorthanded goals over the course of the campaign just gone – the WCHA teams that finished closest to that figure were Minnesota and Minnesota State, each with 7 – and UNO had the third-best penalty killers in the league, clicking at a 81.9 percent clip.
Unfortunately for the Mavericks, though, their power play units were abysmal. UNO finished with the WCHA’s worst power play percentage (17.1), converting on only 25 of the 146 opportunities it had when playing with a numerical advantage. Perhaps most critically, UNO went 0-for-20 on the power play in the Mavericks’ final seven games of the season.
There’s little wrong with UNO’s penalty kill, but the power play numbers will need to improve considerably if the Mavericks want to finish higher in the WCHA in 2012-13.
FRESHMAN CLASS: B+
As a group, UNO’s freshman class wasn’t perfect, but there was also very little to complain about.
Jayson Megna and Archibald both finished in the top eight on UNO’s scoring chart, and Jaycob Megna – younger brother of Jayson – put in a solid performance on the UNO blue line. Freshman forward Dominic Zombo (2 G, 1 A) was quiet for most of the season, but really started to light up in the home stretch, and the hope in the UNO camp is that he continues to improve through the offseason and into the 2012-13 campaign.
Forwards Joe Krause (mid-season walk-on), Brian O’Rourke (21 games played) and Zach Mausolf (1 GP) were the only UNO newcomers that didn’t make a sizable impact on the stat sheets in 2011-12. The trio combined for zero points in their first year with the Mavericks.