Monday, February 03, 2014

Mavs Get Needed Split with St. Cloud State

Until this weekend, there wasn't much positive to say about UNO hockey over the last couple of month.  Mostly, that's the result of five bye-weeks over ten weeks. But only winning one game over that stretch also put a huge damper on enthusiasm. After a great run in November, the momentum ground to a halt, but on Saturday night against first-place St. Cloud State, UNO might be getting their legs back under them.

Friday night seemed to be more of the same.  The Mavs seemed to carry the play most of the night, only to have a key defensive breakdown result in the puck in the back of the net. They battled back to tie the game at the start of the third period, only to let the game-winner slip through off the faceoff with just over three minutes left in the game.

Saturday night, somebody lit a fire under the Mavs and they took an early 2-0 lead, only to surrender it with three more defensive breakdowns. After Jonno Davis' five minute major penalty, Josh Archibald left St. Cloud's Kalle Kossila uncovered in front of the net, and while UNO goalie Kirk Thompson stuffed Kossila's first three shots, the fourth one finally found the net.  Kossila scored again late in the period on another odd-man rush where UNO's defense failed them again.  It wasn't necessarily Thompson's fault, but Dean Blais pulled Thompson.  Blais might have otherwise, but I suspect the real reason was to shake up the defense.  In any event, the defense did play better.

More importantly, UNO was having their "puck luck" turn.  The shots that seemed to always end up finding a glove or a pad found the net as UNO scored early and often in an 8-6 victory against the sixth-ranked Huskies.  Did UNO find their scoring mojo on Saturday night?

One can only hope, because there are no more bye weeks left.  It's a tight race; UNO sits in a 3-way tie for second place with North Dakota and Denver, who the Mavs play the next two weekends.  These are borderline must-win games, because while they are only 2 points behind first place St. Cloud State, they are only four points ahead of sixth-place Western Michigan. With three points on the line each night, UNO needs to get a split against the former Sioux then take most of the points against Denver.

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