Five things we learned from the Northern Michigan series

Nebraska Omaha forward Brock Montpetit celebrates after scoring the Mavericks’ opening goal in Friday’s 5-2 win over Northern Michigan. (Photo credit: Matthew Semisch)

One of UNO’s junior stars continued his hot form at the start of the new season; the Mavericks’ freshman goalie can’t seem to get a break; and UNO’s offense needs to catch up to its defensive corps.

Brock Montpetit’s bright start to the season continued.
Seven months removed from a difficult sophomore season, Montpetit has gotten his 2012-13 campaign off to a flying start, and his good run of form continued into last weekend’s series at home to Northern Michigan.

The Somerset, Wis. native opened his goal account for the new season in the first period of Friday’s series opener, settling the ricochet from an errant Nick Seeler shot before beating Wildcat goaltender Jared Coreau from close range at 10:36. Only 77 seconds later, Montpetit picked up his fourth assist of the year on a goal from Michael Young.

Montpetit was kept off the score sheet in Saturday’s rematch, a 2-1 loss to the visitors, but the Maverick junior contributed in other ways, and most noticeably in the faceoff circles. He was nearly automatic on the drops on Saturday, winning 14 of the 17 draws in which he took part.

With an 82.3 percent success rate, he led both teams at the dots in the game. The second-best faceoff participant on the night was UNO’s Brent Gwidt, who won five draws and lost four. No NMU player had a winning record at the faceoff dots in that game.

Montpetit had struggled in his second season in Omaha, one in which he set a career high for penalty minutes in a season and scored five fewer goals than he had in his freshman campaign. It does look, however, that he has come into the new season determined to put last year behind him.
Coreau stole Saturday’s game for NMU.
The junior NMU goaltender had been pulled in Friday’s third period after conceding five goals to UNO, but he was a revelation the following night, making 35 saves and earning the win for the guests.

The Perth, Ontario native got better as the game went on and as UNO found its way through the Wildcats’ defense with increasing frequency.

The Mavericks struggled particularly in Saturday’s first period and only placed five shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, leaving Coreau with little to do. He recovered well after giving up UNO’s lone goal of the night early in the second period, though, and he made 14 saves in the middle frame and stopped all of UNO’s 16 shots in the third.

“It was a good way to come back,” Coreau told Radio Free Omaha after Saturday’s game. “Last night was a rough night I think for all of us, and I’m accountable for a lot of it, too. I just tried to forget about that one and just come back tonight and try to get the win.”
Anthony Stolarz is unlucky to be 0-2.
Stolarz is UNO’s highest-ever NHL draft pick, going in the second round of this year’s draft to the Philadelphia Flyers, and he may also be the Mavericks’ unluckiest goaltender in some time.

The freshman has now lost both of his first two starts as a Maverick, but that misfortune isn’t down to a lack of effort. He recovered well from shaky starts both on Saturday and in a 3-2 loss to Notre Dame in Kansas City, Mo. on Oct. 13, but he hasn’t yet been able to parlay his otherwise solid performances into wins for his team.

Senior goaltender John Faulkner has a 2-0 record so far this season, but that’s much more down to good fortune than Stolarz’s is to how the newcomer has played.

Army – UNO’s first official opponent of the season, which the Mavericks beat 5-1 – put in a performance that was some way off the pace that the Mavericks had set in the game, and, as for Faulkner’s 5-2 win over NMU on Friday, the Wildcats were flat throughout and had just come into Omaha following a 15-hour bus trip the night before.

UNO was inconsistent up front, again.
So far for the Mavericks’ offense, it certainly feels that, when it rains, it pours.

Following the series split with NMU, UNO is 2-2-0 heading into WCHA play this upcoming weekend at home to Bemidji State. In the Mavericks’ two wins to date, they have scored ten goals – Five in each game.

What’s at issue is, in their two losses, they only scored three times.

Perhaps even worse, UNO’s power play failed to launch yet again last weekend. The Mavericks went 11-for-11 on the penalty kill, which is great news, but they only converted on one of the nine times that they played with a numerical advantage on the ice.

UNO’s power play units were abysmal in the 2011-12 season, finishing the campaign on a 17.1 percent clip, good for last place in the WCHA. They haven’t gotten off the ground so far this season, either – 2-for-15 through four games – and that’s going to have to change if the Mavericks are to finish much higher than they did last time around..
Saturday provided a needed lesson ahead of the Bemidji series.
Once NMU jumped out to its 2-0 lead early in Saturday’s second period, the Wildcats started to put the clamp down. UNO did pull a goal back through Josh Archibald to halve the visitors’ lead, but Northern used an effective neutral-zone trap the rest of the way to try and limit the Mavericks’ scoring chances.

It’s something that Bemidji State, UNO’s next opponent coming up this weekend at CenturyLink Center, has done against UNO in recent seasons with a healthy amount of success. BSU has used an opportunistic counter-attacking style against the Mavericks, and it’s ended up with the Beavers going unbeaten in their last six games in Omaha.

In his post-game comments on Saturday, UNO head coach Dean Blais’s praise of Northern Michigan could easily have been used to describe Bemidji’s style of play against UNO, too.

“They’re well-coached, they’re fairly fast, and they’re a good counter team,” Blais said of NMU on Saturday. “Tough in the neutral zone to break that trap, but it’s even tougher when you’re not moving your legs.

We’ve got drills that we execute in practice where we’re trying to break traps and we’re trying to break one-man forechecks with four other guys back. We know how to do that, but I didn’t think that happened tonight just because of not as much intensity as last night.”

“We came out and competed and showed up tonight right from the get-go. Last night, we were very passive and very kind of willing to let (UNO) punch us in the mouth and not do anything about it.”
NMU head coach Walt Kyle on his team’s ability to bounce back Saturday from the Wildcats’ poor performance the night before.

Some other notable figures from the first two weeks of the season to keep in mind:

  • 4: Sustr and Young, two of UNO’s best defensemen thus far this year, have scored four of the Mavericks’ 13 thus far. That’s two players – blueliners, no less – accountable for nearly one-third of the team’s scoring output this season to date.
  • 6: The number of goals UNO’s defensemen have scored this season goes up to six when you factor in a goal apiece from freshman Nick Seeler and senior Bryce Aneloski. Both of those goals came at the Icebreaker tournament a week ago in Kansas City, Mo.
  • 8: Statistically, freshman defenseman Brian Cooper has been UNO’s weakest link thus far. The Anchorage, Alaska native has played in all four games, but he has a team-leading eight penalty minutes and a -1 plus-minus difference.
  • 71: UNO’s offense was relentless in Friday’s 5-2 win over the Wildcats. The Mavericks attempted 71 total shots on the night, with 41 finding their way to or past Coreau and NMU freshman backup netminder Michael Doan.

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