After dropping a 4-1 game Friday night to Minnesota Duluth, the Mavs came back strong tonight to win 5-2. The split means that the Mavs finished third in the WCHA regular season, and came tantalizingly close to finishing second as Denver hung on to beat St. Cloud State 3-2 tonight. That second place finish would have been huge for UNO, as it would have meant playing Minnesota State-Mankato in the first round instead of Bemidji State. UNO swept Mankato back in November, while losing three of four games against the pesky Beavers earlier this season. The Mavs speed based attack has made UNO surprisingly effective against the upper echelon of college hockey, as indicated by the success the Mavs had against Minnesota, North Dakota, and Michigan... but it has an Achilles heel when faced with a trapping attack that frustrates and negates that speed.
The second place finish also would have allowed UNO to bypass the WCHA Quarterfinals, should they win the first round series in Omaha next weekend. That could have been huge for UNO, but it's passed by now. The focus now has to be on getting two victories against Bemidji State next weekend. UNO jumped up to a tie for 6th place in the Pairwise ratings, but that's in large measure to Bemidji falling out of consideration this weekend. If Bemidji State wins next weekend's series, not only does that end the quest for a WCHA title, but it could end the Mavs season as well. With victories next week, Bemidji could reemerge as a team under consideration, and UNO's ranking would take a severe drop while everybody else in consideration for the NCAA tournament would tend to go up.
It's playoff hockey time in Omaha. Win and advance is all there is at this point.