Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Am I The Last UNO Fan Who Hasn't Given Up on Hockey?

Somehow, I get this feeling that I'm in the minority of UNO fans when I say that I'm still looking for something out of the Mavericks' hockey team this weekend. Many, it seems, have long turned the page to other sports.  The men's basketball team nearly grabbed an NCAA tournament berth in the Summit League championship game Tuesday night, losing 79-77.  It was a pretty good game to watch, but once Mike Daum buried a three point shot with a minute and a half left, the air left the Mavs' sails.

Basketball was a great story, and validates Trev Alberts' 2011 decision to move UNO up from division II to division I in all sports. They play a fast-paced exciting brand of basketball, and have pulled off their share of upsets.  (Helllloooooooooooooo Iowa!)  Now it's onto the NIT or some other postseason tournament.

That shouldn't take away from UNO's flagship sport:  hockey. UNO's horrific home record in the last year and a half since moving from the CenturyLink Center to "The Mistake" certainly is reason to doubt the future of the hockey program.  Only winning eight out of their last 28 home games raises serious questions about the building.

UNO won't be playing at Baxter Arena anymore this season.  And that's a good thing.  Weird thing is that for as bad as UNO hockey has been at home, they've been more than inversely good on the road.  That 6-10-2 home record flips to 10-5-3 when UNO leaves town.  Basically, UNO wins two out of every three games away from home.

Win two out of three? That's what UNO hockey needs to do this weekend against Western Michigan on the road.  One of those home wins was against Western Michigan a month ago, and in the other game, UNO had a lead with six minutes left before giving up two late goals to Griffen Molino.

Bottom line is that there's no reason not to think that UNO hockey can finally win a playoff series and get to the NCHC semifinals in Minneapolis. And if they get those wins, I suspect they'll move into bubble territory in the PairWise rankings with those wins over the fourth ranked Broncos.  They'll probably have to make it to the conference title game to make the NCAA tournament, but that's not out of line.  UNO has played better as of late against tough competition ever since Dean Blais started benching upperclassmen who were coasting along this season.  Except for a lousy first period two weeks ago against North Dakota, UNO has looked like a tournament hockey team.

And if they do that this week, they'll move on.  And who knows what happens after that.  Win and advance.

I haven't given up.  Neither should you.

No comments: