Sunday, February 24, 2013

UNO Rips Off Massa's Redshirt For Late Post-season Run

I wasn't surprised initially that Ryan Massa played last night in an exhibition game against the US National Development Team. The game didn't count in the standings, so there's no sense in playing any critical players unless you have to. Matt White, Josh Archibald, and Brent Gwidt were all healthy scratches for just that reason.  And with John Faulkner seemingly hitting a wall this month after playing the entire month of January, it's no surprise that Massa saw some action.  Or so I thought.

UNO typically plays all their goalies in an exhibition game...even the ones who are redshirting.  So why not get Massa in some game action? It's not like Faulkner or Dayn Belfour need more action.   And it's a meaningless game.  The postponement of the game from Thursday to Saturday mean that I couldn't be there.  I wasn't alone:  "Krutov" the MavBoni driver wasn't there either.

Neither was head coach Dean Blais, who didn't let the schedule change affect his plans to be out recruiting this weekend.

One minor fly in that plan:  I assumed this game would work like it did for other exhibition games.  I was wrong, because I didn't really understand the NCAA redshirt rule. Preseason Exhibitions/Preseason Practice Scrimmages During Initial Year. During a student-athlete’s initial year of enrollment at the certifying institution, he or she may compete in preseason exhibition contests and preseason practice scrimmages (as permitted in the particular sport per Bylaw 17) without counting such competition as a season of competition. (Revised: 5/9/06)- Source: NCAA Compliance Manual
So incoming freshmen can play in the preseason exhibition game (i.e Manitoba, British Columbia, Lethbridge) without affecting their eligibility.  This game against Team USA isn't a preseason exhibition game, and Ryan Massa isn't an incoming freshman.

So that redshirt is officially burned.

So why would you burn a redshirt so late in the season?  Probably best to say it's desperation at this point.  Faulkner got shelled in the outdoor game, and hasn't been terribly strong in recent weeks.  Dayn Belfour had an impressive performance in his first game against North Dakota, but got pulled last weekend against Alaska-Anchorage.  Bottom line is that Blais isn't totally confident in either Faulkner or Belfour.

UNO is currently tied with North Dakota for third place in the WCHA.  Minnesota State-Mankato is one point behind in fifth place.  Wisconsin and Denver are tied for sixth place just three points behind.  UNO faces Wisconsin in a critical series this weekend, and UNO desperately needs to win at least one and preferably both games this weekend to clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

For the NCAA tournament, the situation is even more dire.  UNO sits in a tie for 20th place in the Pairwise standings, which determines the seedings for the 16 team NCAA tournament.  If UNO wants to get to the Big Skate, they have to win, and win a lot of games.

Two wins in their last four games against the Badgers and Minnesota-Duluth probably gets the Mavs home ice.  But winning all four might get the Mavs the #2 seed in the WCHA playoffs.  UNO trails Minnesota by just one point at this point, and that #2 seed would earn the Mavs a bye for the WCHA quarterfinals, should they win that home playoff series.  Win in St. Paul, and the Mavs don't have to worry about the Pairwise with the conference championship.

So that's why Dean Blais is pulling one of those trademark bold Blais moves.  He told Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald that he sees an opening:
“The bottom line is, it takes care of itself. If we finish second, third or fourth in the WCHA, we're going to get a bid. If we're 20th at the end of the year, you're not going to get in. But say we beat Wisconsin twice, we'll move up to 15th. And say we split with Duluth, we'll be 14.”
So with almost no margin for error, Blais is pulling his trump card out of his sleeve. Massa was the #1 goalie at the end of last season and was expected to be the goalie this season.  Something changed this summer, and Massa announced he would redshirt. Why?  Nobody outside of Blais and Mass knows for sure why, but that's immaterial at this point.  Massa had a good performance last night, stopping 27 of 28 shots.  My guess is that if he has another strong week of practice, he'll start Friday night against Wisconsin in a nationally televised game (NBC Sports Network; early 6:37 pm faceoff).  And if he has a good game, he'll be back on Saturday night.

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