Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Ultimatum for Mike Kemp and UNO Hockey

Tom Shatel talked to UNO chancellor John Christensen this week, and got confirmation that he expects UNO to be in the top four in the CCHA. In fact, he expects it this season:
"If we don't start meeting that standard, we will sit down and have some serious discussions after this season," Christensen said. "There will be changes. I'm not prepared to say at this moment what that will be. A lot of things go into a season and how it plays out.

"Our team lost a lot of talent. But every team loses talent. It's time for our program to play at a high level."
Nevermind that UNO is picked eighth in the CCHA this season. Christensen wants more from UNO hockey, and wants it now.
"Mike has shown he can build a good program. But there are builders and there are finishers. It's time to deliver."
Is it fair to dump this on Mike Kemp just before the season starts? Truth is, nothing in sports is fair anymore. In some respects, at least Kemp knows what is expected of him. Frank Solich entered the 2003 season thinking he needed to deliver a certain number of wins, though nothing was said until he was fired.

Right or wrong, that's where UNO hockey is now. A fantastic start, making it to the CCHA championship game in just their third season. In recent years, they've been ohhh-so-close to getting to that 4th spot several times, but haven't made the cut, finishing fifth in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

Why fourth? The CCHA playoff format makes the divide between fourth and fifth place huge. Fourth place gets you a first round bye, and a home series in the second round. Fifth place gets you a home series in the first round, and if you win, you play the fourth place team on their home ice. Win that second round series, and it's off to the Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals.

Not to mention that in the last five years, an average of four CCHA teams have made the NCAA tournament each year. Christensen sums it up:
"If you finish in the top four every year, those things (championships and Frozen Four berths) are going to come."
After the Nancy Belck/Jim Buck scandals, many people thought UNO was committed to mediocrity. Today, the message is loud and clear.

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