Having played a team last week that Nebraska Omaha can’t seem to beat at home for love or money, the Mavericks travel this week to a venue where, historically, they have been immune to losing.
UNO (2-3-1, 0-1-1 WCHA) has had a frustrating start to the 2012-13 season. This weekend’s series at Michigan Tech (2-4-0, 1-3-0) may be, however, just what the visitors need if history repeats itself.
The Mavericks are yet to lose a game at Tech’s John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, having picked up a split there last season during the Houghton, Mich. university’s famous Winter Carnival weekend this last February. UNO swept its only other series at MTU, a two-game set in Houghton in February of 1999.
The Huskies aren’t a team that UNO can afford to take lightly, though. Tech may only have a 1-3-0 record through its first four games in WCHA play, but all four of those games came against nationally-ranked teams in the forms of Minnesota and Denver, and the one win came in Houghton against the Golden Gophers on Oct. 19.
Playing teams of that caliber will be a challenge for any group, but those opponents certainly exploited weaknesses in Tech’s game early on this season. MTU is scoring more than three goals per game so far, but the Huskies are in last place in the WCHA in scoring defense, having allowed 24 goals in six games.
Tech’s penalty kill has also struggled, killing only 24 of the 31 power play opportunities the Huskies’ opponents have received. That should prove hopeful for an underperforming UNO power play that is 2-of-25 so far this season and that went 0-for-10 last weekend at home to Bemidji State.
The two-game set with the Beavers last time out was a particularly tough experience for UNO. With Bemidji State forcing a 3-3 tie at CenturyLink Center on Oct. 26 before skating out 3-2 winners over the Mavericks the following night,
UNO is now winless in its last eight home games against the Beavers.
There are, however, some brights spots for UNO head coach Dean Blais’s men going into this weekend’s series. Sophomore forward Josh Archibald comes into the Tech series riding a three-game goal-scoring streak, and junior Brock Montpetit is leading the team in scoring (one goal, six assists) to bounce back from what for him was a disappointing second season in Omaha.
Expect Blais to stick with a rotation between senior goaltender John Faulkner and freshman goalie Anthony Stolarz. Faulkner (2-0-1 in four appearances) has started each Friday game thus far this season, while Stolarz (0-3-0) has been the Saturday starter and is due for his first win as a collegian.
Tech is led up front by junior center Dennis Rix. The Grand Prairie, Alberta native is averaging a point per game thus far for the Huskies, and Rix scored both of Tech’s goals in its last game, a 5-2 loss at now second-ranked Denver on Oct. 27.
In the Huskie nets, freshman goaltender Phoenix Copley appears to have locked up the No. 1 job for head coach Mel Pearson’s club. Copley has five appearances thus far as a Huskie, including a pair of starts last weekend at Denver.
UNO is back at home next weekend for a two-game set with WCHA rival Minnesota Duluth that begins Nov. 9.