Thursday, March 05, 2015

UNO Hockey Tries to Wrap Up Home Ice & NCAA Berth Against Colorado College

The bad news for UNO hockey is that they haven't won a game since Valentines' Day.  The good news is that the strength of their conference schedule has kept them in fairly solid position to host a first round playoff series next weekend and ensure that they'll be playing in the NCAA tournament in three weeks.

The conference regular season title is out of the question, but second place is still very much possible.  Colorado College is in last place, while UNO sits just two points behind second place Miami, who has to host #1 North Dakota this weekend.  If UNO gets two wins, Miami has to win or tie both games. (Two ties would require Miami winning both shootouts, if you want to get particular.)

This weekend is all about setting up seedings and matchups for next weekend.  Two UNO wins means the Mavs will play either Western Michigan or St. Cloud State next weekend in Omaha.  A split probably means a matchup against Minnesota-Duluth...and two losses likely sends the Mavs on the road to Denver or Duluth.

Why is it so important for UNO to try to get to 2nd place?  That would give UNO a home matchup against Western Michigan, currently ranked 27th in the Pairwise...right in the middle of the college hockey rankings.  That's a tough matchup when you consider that the Broncos will finish in second to last place in the conference.  St. Cloud State, on the other hand, is on the NCAA tournament bubble at 17th place in the Pairwise.  They're on the verge of playing themselves into the tournament.

And if that's the sixth place team, you pretty much know the rest of the conference is stacked...and those are teams you don't want to face until you get to Minneapolis.  #1 North Dakota. #3 Minnesota-Duluth. #4 Miami. #5 UNO.  #8 Denver.  Five out of the top eight teams in the country in one conference.

That's why I think that if UNO wins two games this weekend, they should be in good shape for the NCAA tournament.  No matter what happens after that, the resume looks to be good enough to get them in.  But it's better to not chance it either.

BTW, even though UNO only managed two ties last weekend at Duluth, it was a noteworthy on a national basis as Jake Randolph pulled off the hockey highlight of the weekend nationally with this shootout goal Friday night.
He's done it before...two years ago, in Omaha, for the Lancers.
UNO is undefeated in shootouts this season, and goalie Ryan Massa has stopped 11 of 12 shootout attempts this season. The senior goalie has been rock solid all season, which should bode well for UNO's chances in March.

Maybe longer.

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