Last night's 4-2 victory over #1 Miami was a huge boost to UNO hockey as they wind down the regular season, and starts setting the stage for an interesting, perhaps exciting, finish to the season. Last week, CollegeHockeyNews.com named UNO the team of the week following the Mavs sweep of Michigan, and the accolades should only increase this week. Look for Alex Hudson to get yet more ink this week; he had two goals Friday night and added two assists on Saturday night.
UNO's 7-2-1 push down the stretch has put the Mavs in position to make some noise in March. They've clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs, and more importantly, if they win a first round series, they should avoid a rematch with the Miami Redhawks. In the CCHA standings, it's a muddled mess between 2nd place and 10th. Only 13 points (essentially 4 games) separate #2 Ferris State and #10 Notre Dame, meaning that there aren't any assurances in the postseason. This season, a hot team will make some noise, and nobody's hotter than UNO.
Last night's victory also jumped the Mavs to a tie for 18th place in the PairWise rankings, which emulate the NCAA's criteria for selecting and seeding the 16 team tournament. They're still on the outside at this point, but the next few games give UNO a chance to make up some ground...starting this weekend.
When UNO scheduled Bemidji State for this weekend, I'm sure nobody expected this series to mean anything other than padding out the schedule. All of a sudden, Bemidji and UNO are preparing to enter the WCHA next season, and Bemidji suddenly is a national power after last season's surprise Frozen Four run. The Beavers currently sit in fifth place in the Pairwise, meaning that UNO gets a chance to enhance their resume if they can pull off some wins this weekend. Win this weekend, and make it to the CCHA semifinals in Detroit, and UNO might just find themselves in NCAA tournament consideration. That makes this weekend's games huge for UNO.
When UNO hired Dean Blais last summer, this is exactly what I expected...a team that would make a run late in the season, and would take UNO to the next level. Fasten your seat belts, Omaha. UNO is cleared for takeoff.