Monday, February 20, 2012

Mavs Split with Colorado College Sets Up Push For Home Ice

UNO hockey traveled to #15 Colorado College and split with the Tigers to remain tied for fourth place in the WCHA.  Friday night, UNO had a game tying goal waived off with under 2:46 left in regulation.  Terry Broadhurst's shot deflected to Dominic Zombo's skate, then trickled into the goal.  The officials apparently felt that Zombo intentionally redirected the puck, though Zombo's skate pretty much stayed on a straight line towards the goal line. A tough judgement call to make; some hockey experts point to the rule saying that if there is any doubt, the goal should be waived off when the puck goes in off a skate...but others feel it was yet another blown call.

For what it's worth, Dean Blais wasn't too happy about it in his postgame interview.  UNO couldn't score down the stretch, and the Tigers held on for the disputed 4-3 victory.

Saturday night, UNO used a third period rush by Ryan Walters who scored the game-tying goal short-handed in the period, then scored the game winner midway through the third period enroute to a 5-3 victory.  Walters added his own editorial comment, by mockingly waiving off the game tying goal in his celebration afterwards. (See it at 1:20 of the UNO highlight video.)

UNO emerged from a two week road trip in better shape than I thought they'd be in.  A 3 way tie for 4th place, three points ahead of seventh place Michigan Tech gives UNO a small amount of cushion with four games remaining...except those four games are against first place Minnesota and third place Denver.  The top 6 teams host first round WCHA playoff series, making it imperative that UNO at least split the upcoming series.  Obviously, winning out would put UNO in great position...perhaps to even get a top two seed which could allow UNO to avoid having to play in the 2nd round games, should they win their first round series.

The bigger issue in my mind is not home ice, but rather merely avoiding Bemidji State.  Bemidji has had UNO's number as of late, going 5-0-1 in the last two years in Omaha.  For what it's worth, Bemidji State is UNO's kryptonite; the Mavs simply have not been able to out-execute the Beavers.  Last year, the Beavers bounced the Mavs out of the playoffs at home, and with Bemidji floating around in 9th place, you almost have to keep an eye out for them and figure out a way to avoid them.

Up next for UNO is #7 Minnesota, making their first trip to Omaha since 2003.  They've rebounded this season now that former UNO assistant Mike Guentzel returned to the Gophers.  Last season, UNO shocked the WCHA by sweeping Minnesota to open the season, and one could argue that Minnesota never recovered.  I get the feeling that the Gophers might remember that.

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