Thursday, February 26, 2015

Maverick Hockey Heads North to Face #6 Minnesota-Duluth

Last weekend's series against St. Cloud State didn't go very well for UNO as the Mavs got swept for the first time this season. Dean Blais didn't feel UNO played all that badly afterwards, and I'm not so sure from a national perspective, the losses weren't that bad.  UNO "only" fell to 8th place in both the polls and the PairWise rankings that seed the NCAA tournament.

How the heck did that happen? Simple, the strength of the conference. Even though St. Cloud State is in sixth place in the conference, they rank 14th in the Pairwise.  Imagine that... if the season were over, the NCHC might have six of eight teams in the 16 team NCAA tournament.  That's kind of like all of the talk of placing four SEC west teams in the College Football Playoff last season...except rather that instead of this coming from a moron on ESPN, it's coming from a tested and accepted statistical formula.  (Well, some hockey-heads would prefer KRACH, but that's another discussion entirely...)
Having lost three of of their last four (and four out of their last five games), UNO needs a big bounceback weekend just for momentum sake.  It would certainly help UNO's case for home ice in the playoffs and NCAA seeding, but it's more to reestablish the team and get them focused heading into the last month of the season.

That'll be tough this weekend against #6 Minnesota-Duluth.  Dean Blais thought they were the "best team in the country" in November. The Bulldogs are one point behind UNO in the standings, so with six points up for grabs, UNO needs a split just to stay in position for home ice.

No stars really on the Bulldogs roster; sophomore center Dominic Toninato is the leading scorer ranking 30th in the nation.  Just a solid roster from top to bottom, and that's going to put pressure on UNO's third and fourth lines this weekend.  UNO looks to be without senior captain Dominic Zombo once again; I suspect that we might not see him again until the playoffs at the soonest.

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