UNO’s second act begins at Quinnipiac

TD Bank Sports CenterPlayers on the No. 12 Nebraska Omaha hockey team may have enjoyed a cupcake or two over their two-week holiday break, but that’s the last thing the Mavericks could expect to experience any this weekend as they begin the second half of their season.

Instead, it’s ninth-ranked Quinnipiac that UNO has traveled to face just ahead of the end of the 2012 calendar year, and QU comes into the series in Hamden, Conn. on the back of a 10-game unbeaten streak.

This will be a Saturday-Sunday non-conference series, with both games set to start at 11 a.m. Central time.

QU currently sits atop the ECAC Hockey standings with a perfect 8-0-0 record in the league and a 12-3-2 overall mark. UNO (11-6-1, 7-4-1 WCHA) is in sixth place in its league, having picked up 15 points from the 24 on offer thus far.

The Bobcats are running on a 9-0-1 clip since Nov. 9, with all but three of those games coming on the road. QU has been handy on its own ice at the TD Bank Sports Center, too, amassing a 5-2-1 record over the Bobcats’ first seven home games this season.

This is set to be a particularly exciting series, though, and it’s one that shouldn’t be low on scoring. Statistically, UNO has the country’s second-best offense (3.60 goals scored per game), and QU has averaged 3.88 goals per game against league opponents.

That said, QU’s defense has played lights-out so far, leading in the country in team defense. The Bobcats have only shipped 1.47 goals per game this season, and senior goaltender Eric Hartzell has been one of the nation’s best with his 1.29 goals against average and .937 save percentage from 16 games played.

Senior leadership has been paramount for this Bobcat team. None of QU’s skaters are in the top 20 of the country’s scoring leaders chart, although senior forward Jeremy Langlois comes in at No. 25 with 10 goals and 8 assists for 18 points.

Second through fifth on the Bobcats’ team scoring chart are also seniors. Clay Harvey is second with 12 points, followed by Russell Goodman, Mike Dalhuisen, and Jordan Samuels-Thomas.

UNO’s more ardent fans will remember Samuels-Thomas, a transfer from Bowling Green that is in his first season playing for QU.

He controversially defeated the Mavericks in an overtime shootout in Oct. 2009, scoring the only goal in the shootout despite being an ineligible shooter after having been in the penalty box when the five-minute overtime expired.

However, that UNO team, which finished its 2009-10 campaign 20-16-6, wasn’t as good as this season’s Maverick set is. That team didn’t have Ryan Walters, currently a UNO junior forward that is the country’s second-highest point-grabber with 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points from his first 18 games this season.

In goal, senior John Faulkner (9-2-1) and freshman Anthony Stolarz (2-4-0) are starting to share more playing time lately than they had earlier in the season. Stolarz experienced losses in each of his first three outings in a UNO sweater, but has started picking up the pace with his own solid play as well as more help from the skaters in front of him.

This Maverick team It’s also playing better than last season’s UNO club did, which was 9-8-3 overall and 7-4-2 in the WCHA at this stage of the 2011-12 campaign.

It was also at this point a year ago where UNO took care of business against QU in Omaha, picking up a 2-2 tie and 4-1 win over the Bobcats at CenturyLink Center hours before the ball dropped ringing in 2012.

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