It’s only been nine months since Nebraska Omaha’s 2011-12 season ground to a halt at St. Cloud State’s National Hockey Center, but plenty has changed for the Mavericks since then.
Last season’s conclusion was a low point for the Mavericks during head coach Dean Blais’s time at the helm. The Mavericks dropped each of their last six games, and only won two of their last 13.
What’s more, UNO was unceremoniously dropped by SCSU in two games in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. The Huskies outscored their visitors 7-1 in those two games against a team that should have clinched home ice for itself in the first round of the postseason but didn’t in the end.
So far in the new campaign, however, things are different in the UNO camp. At 9-4-1 overall and 5-2-1 in the WCHA, Blais’s bunch is ranked 14th in this week’s United States College Hockey Online Division I poll, and the Mavericks have won seven of their last eight games.
The Mavericks are now sinking their teeth into the meat of their schedule for this season, though. It began last week, where UNO picked up a more than respectable split at then third-ranked Minnesota and picking up six goals in the two games on the Golden Gophers’ ice.
UNO dropped its last game, a 3-2 setback against the Gophers, but the Mavericks’ seven wins in a row before that made for their second-longest winning streak in the history of the program.
SCSU, this weekend’s opposition, is ranked 17th in the country, although it dropped three places from last week. The Huskies (8-6-0, 6-4-0) picked up a split of their own last weekend at Alaska Anchorage, winning 4-3 in overtime last Friday before dropping a 3-1 decision to the Seawolves – UAA’s first league win of the season – the following night.
St. Cloud ranks behind UNO in 10 team statistical categories, but the Huskies have also played a much tougher schedule than UNO has. SCSU was swept earlier this season at currently top-ranked New Hampshire, and the Huskies have split series with No. 9 North Dakota and sixth-ranked Denver.
Forwards Ben Hanowski, Nic Dowd and Drew LeBlanc drive the bus up front for SCSU. Hanowski, who missed a month of this season with an upper-body injury, has returned and has four goals and four assists in nine games played.
Dowd has eight goals and nine assists for 17 points from 14 appearances, and LeBlanc is tied for fifth place in the WCHA with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists).
The league’s current scoring leader, however, plies his trade in a UNO sweater. Maverick junior forward Ryan Walters is carrying the banner through his six goals and 14 assists through his team’s first 14 games of the season.
Next up for UNO following this week’s two-game set at SCSU will be a series next weekend at home to Minnesota State, which has won each of its last four games. The Huskies are at home again next weekend against No. 19 Colorado College.