After being swept by Denver this weekend, UNO has now lost five straight hockey games at home. Two weeks ago, they looked to be ready to make a push for not only home ice, but perhaps even a top two seed if they could pull off a couple of sweeps. Instead, it was the Mavs getting swept...and now they head on the road next weekend to St. Cloud State. Truth be told, I have to think that's almost a better option for UNO now; the Mavs have been a .500 team on the road this season.
Due to sick kids, I didn't get to attend last night's game. But UNO seemed to be heading towards a 2-1 victory until Andrew Schmit was called for a hooking penalty that had UNO fans and coaches in an uproar. Dean Blais censored himself in his post-game comments by saying that "you can't criticize officials in the WCHA." That penalty led to the game-tying goal by Luke Salazar with :38 left in regulation. The deflated Mavs still had a chance to claim home ice with a tie...but Daniel Doremus' goal 1:57 into overtime sent the Mavs heading for a bus trip next weekend.
Friday night's game might have been the worst UNO hockey game I've ever seen. Certainly, UNO has been overmatched and outscored by more, but I don't think UNO has ever played worse. Sloppy, lackadaisical passes, and seemingly unable to even clear the zone at times. UNO had three power plays in the second period and they barely could get the puck into the offensive zone each and every time. Credit UNO fans for sticking around for the entire game and not booing, even though the performance was absolutely boo-worthy.
One player who didn't seem to take Friday night off was sophomore Matt White, who's emerged in recent weeks as a offensive force. But it's going to take much more than White to have UNO's season extend past next weekend. They'll have to win two out of three to make it to the Final Five in St. Paul. And UNO's sub-.500 record means that the only way UNO makes it back to the NCAA tournament is with the auto-bid that comes with winning the Broadmoor Trophy in two weeks.
I keep tempering my disappointment in the end of this season by looking ahead to the future. Dean Blais took over so late in the summer of 2009 that he's really only had two recruiting classes to bring in players suited to his style. There are only two true seniors on this roster, though goalie John Faulkner is graduating this spring and seems unlikely to return with four other goalies expected on the roster next season. Those ten freshmen on this years roster should seem some benefit from a full offseason of conditioning to be ready to play the racehorse style of hockey Dean Blais prefers. We haven't seen as much of that this season...but I get the ffeeling that's been out of necessity due to the circumstances of this year.
Which makes me ask the what-if question that's made wonder most of this season...just what would this season been like if the Alex Hudson from last season had been part of the team?