Deep down, I wasn't surprised that UNO was swept by St. Cloud State in the first round of the playoffs. That being said, I also wouldn't have been surprised if the Mavs had swept the Huskies either. Lack of surprise shouldn't equate to lack of disappointment. It's extremely disappointing to see the Mavs finish the season on such a low note: long losing streak, sub-.500 record, and with a whimper.
It's too easy to get dismayed to how the season ended, but there is a reason to be optimistic about the future. Let's start with the roster, which only has two seniors that, frankly, didn't play much. Another senior, goalie John Faulkner, is actually a junior in eligibility after redshirting as a freshman. He could be back next season, though that raises questions about the roster. The Mavs have four goalies on this year's roster, with Mike Taffe taking a year off to play in juniors for the Lincoln Stars. That's five. Then Anthony Stolarz committed to play for the Mavs next season.
(Correction: Yeti from the Lincoln Stars Blog updated me that Taffe did not make the Stars roster, and is now playing in Amarillo of the NAHL So I'm even more skeptical that Taffe will be back in Omaha in the fall.)
Does UNO need SIX goalies next season? Hardly. There will be roster attrition over the summer, as there also needs to be room for incoming freshmen as well. That's the downside of the UNO situation. The upside is that UNO will have a wealth of experience returning next season. This season, they just plain ran out of gas.
The final turning point in my mind was the dismissal of Alex Hudson in December. At the time, Blais talked about shortening his bench because he didn't have depth at center. Well, this squad ran out of gas. Call it a character building experiment, call it whatever you want. We didn't see as much of the racehorse style of hockey after New Years that have been the trademark of a Dean Blais squad. And the loss of a talented player like Hudson in and of itself is a huge problem; Hudson's currently playing for Manchester in the AHL...one step short of the NHL. Not seeing a lot of ice time, mind you...but that's where he is.
So a long offseason begins. There's a lot of unfulfilled promise on the Mavs roster, and it's not a stretch to think that the Mavs will be a contender next season. It just wasn't in the cards for UNO this year.