Sunday, February 24, 2013

UNO Rips Off Massa's Redshirt For Late Post-season Run

I wasn't surprised initially that Ryan Massa played last night in an exhibition game against the US National Development Team. The game didn't count in the standings, so there's no sense in playing any critical players unless you have to. Matt White, Josh Archibald, and Brent Gwidt were all healthy scratches for just that reason.  And with John Faulkner seemingly hitting a wall this month after playing the entire month of January, it's no surprise that Massa saw some action.  Or so I thought.

UNO typically plays all their goalies in an exhibition game...even the ones who are redshirting.  So why not get Massa in some game action? It's not like Faulkner or Dayn Belfour need more action.   And it's a meaningless game.  The postponement of the game from Thursday to Saturday mean that I couldn't be there.  I wasn't alone:  "Krutov" the MavBoni driver wasn't there either.

Neither was head coach Dean Blais, who didn't let the schedule change affect his plans to be out recruiting this weekend.

One minor fly in that plan:  I assumed this game would work like it did for other exhibition games.  I was wrong, because I didn't really understand the NCAA redshirt rule. Preseason Exhibitions/Preseason Practice Scrimmages During Initial Year. During a student-athlete’s initial year of enrollment at the certifying institution, he or she may compete in preseason exhibition contests and preseason practice scrimmages (as permitted in the particular sport per Bylaw 17) without counting such competition as a season of competition. (Revised: 5/9/06)- Source: NCAA Compliance Manual
So incoming freshmen can play in the preseason exhibition game (i.e Manitoba, British Columbia, Lethbridge) without affecting their eligibility.  This game against Team USA isn't a preseason exhibition game, and Ryan Massa isn't an incoming freshman.

So that redshirt is officially burned.

So why would you burn a redshirt so late in the season?  Probably best to say it's desperation at this point.  Faulkner got shelled in the outdoor game, and hasn't been terribly strong in recent weeks.  Dayn Belfour had an impressive performance in his first game against North Dakota, but got pulled last weekend against Alaska-Anchorage.  Bottom line is that Blais isn't totally confident in either Faulkner or Belfour.

UNO is currently tied with North Dakota for third place in the WCHA.  Minnesota State-Mankato is one point behind in fifth place.  Wisconsin and Denver are tied for sixth place just three points behind.  UNO faces Wisconsin in a critical series this weekend, and UNO desperately needs to win at least one and preferably both games this weekend to clinch home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

For the NCAA tournament, the situation is even more dire.  UNO sits in a tie for 20th place in the Pairwise standings, which determines the seedings for the 16 team NCAA tournament.  If UNO wants to get to the Big Skate, they have to win, and win a lot of games.

Two wins in their last four games against the Badgers and Minnesota-Duluth probably gets the Mavs home ice.  But winning all four might get the Mavs the #2 seed in the WCHA playoffs.  UNO trails Minnesota by just one point at this point, and that #2 seed would earn the Mavs a bye for the WCHA quarterfinals, should they win that home playoff series.  Win in St. Paul, and the Mavs don't have to worry about the Pairwise with the conference championship.

So that's why Dean Blais is pulling one of those trademark bold Blais moves.  He told Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald that he sees an opening:
“The bottom line is, it takes care of itself. If we finish second, third or fourth in the WCHA, we're going to get a bid. If we're 20th at the end of the year, you're not going to get in. But say we beat Wisconsin twice, we'll move up to 15th. And say we split with Duluth, we'll be 14.”
So with almost no margin for error, Blais is pulling his trump card out of his sleeve. Massa was the #1 goalie at the end of last season and was expected to be the goalie this season.  Something changed this summer, and Massa announced he would redshirt. Why?  Nobody outside of Blais and Mass knows for sure why, but that's immaterial at this point.  Massa had a good performance last night, stopping 27 of 28 shots.  My guess is that if he has another strong week of practice, he'll start Friday night against Wisconsin in a nationally televised game (NBC Sports Network; early 6:37 pm faceoff).  And if he has a good game, he'll be back on Saturday night.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sports Guys & The Dry Slot

If it wasn't so infuriating, the ignorance about the weather shown by sports people during yesterday's winter storm would have been more amusing. It's infuriating because hindsight is always 20/20 with the weather.  Just like it is in sports.  In sports we can always second guess the decisions players and coaches make. Choose a different strategy, and maybe you get a different result.  But second guess the weather forecast? Until we come up with a way (other than burning fossil fuels) to directly control the weather, the weather is what the weather is going to be.  The weather guys just take their best educated guess as to what will happen.

When the forecasts for this storm first came out, there were some crazy amounts forecasted in the region.  And some of those crazy amounts materialized around Kansas City, where thundersnow dropped a foot of the white stuff.  But yeah, not here.  And those forecasts mitigated as the week went on.  Most predictions called for 8 to 11 inches in Omaha.

So yesterday, suddenly we had all of this taunting from sports guys about the "dry slot" and the "blizzard that wasn't to be".  Well, nobody said it was going to be a blizzard.  But some heavy snow, yes.  But the sports guys locked on to Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel, who was standing in downtown Lincoln away from any weather equipment, and called "Winter Storm Q" a bust.

Well, guess what...  That "dry slot" never materialized in Omaha.  It snowed all afternoon.  My informal measurements show that in West Omaha, we got 9".  Other reports of  8 inches throughout town.  Basically, at the low end of the forecast.

Yeah, it did hit Lincoln...but overall the forecasts were right.  So what are the sports guys saying about the snowstorm now?
So much for that "dry slot" and all that ridicule, eh?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Barney Cotton: Tight Ends Coach & Running Game Coordinator

Barney Cotton, the assistant coach Husker fans love to hate, has new responsibilities according to Bo Pelini. He'll primarily be responsible for tight ends as well coordinate the running game. It's a curious move that's tough to understand. A new graduate assistant, Kyle Brey (also the son of Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey) will be working with Cotton on tight ends.

So let's review this.  When Tim Beck became offensive coordinator, Ron Brown moved from coaching tight ends to running backs.  Cotton absorbed that role along with continuing to work with the offensive line, though graduate assistant Vince Morrow took on most of the coaching responsibilities for tight ends. But Nebraska hasn't used the tight ends as much with Beck calling the plays.  Injuries to Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton might have been the excuse in 2011, but not in 2012.  Of course, when you have Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, and Quincy Enunwa catching passes like they did in 2012, it's tough to take them off the field to insert a tight end.

So Morrow leaves for Kentucky (at the encouragement of Pelini), and snares a few verbal commits away.  Cotton slides over now to focus on tight ends with another grad assistant?  At a position that Nebraska didn't seem to use much the last two years.

Does this make sense?  I'm not sure, but let's dismiss the notion that Pelini is an idiot for now.  Some fans have that opinion, but I'm not buying that one.  So let's try to figure out what Pelini is thinking.

Tight ends.  Nebraska had talent in Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton, and didn't use them much the last two years. Is that Beck's fault? Or maybe Morrow wasn't in sync with what Tim Beck wanted.  Many fans were shocked when Morrow left, but consider the possibility that Morrow wasn't doing as good of a job as fans were thinking. Remember that defensive back recruit from December that Morrow got a commitment from, then suddenly Nebraska lost interest once Morrow left? That always struck me as odd, perhaps that Morrow was doing his own thing.  Maybe Morrow wasn't doing as good of a job as fans might have thought?

So Pelini nudges a friend to Kentucky for a soft landing, and shifts Cotton over to clean up the mess.  That's a reach, but it makes a heck of a lot more sense than "Pelini is an idiot".  Of course, what do you need two tight end coaches for with a wide open spread attack?

The run coordinator responsibility appears to be more of a formalization of a role that already existed.  Beck said in December that he wanted Cotton next to him in the booth.

Of course, this change takes resources away from the offensive line, and John Garrison is going to take over this area, though Cotton will still help here.  Personally, I can't help but think that Nebraska is phasing out Cotton's role in the offense by bouncing around between the o-line, tight ends, and run game coordinators.  Each one of those has another body in place.  So why this?  It could be as simple as Pelini likes the insight that Cotton provides him.  It could also be the fact that there are still two Cottons on the Nebraska roster: junior guard Jake and freshman tight end Sam.

Why not just cut the ties to Cotton now and open up another spot on the staff?  Pelini has his reasons for keeping him.  I don't have an answer here, but obviously Pelini still wants him around. And Pelini knows that he's ultimately accountable for the performance of his team. He won't have a job for long if he values friendship over competence. So obviously, Pelini feels Cotton is a net asset to the program.

If I had to look long-term, I suspect that in three years, Cotton will be retiring from the coaching staff. In the meantime, it looks like Cotton will continue to be the punching bag for Husker fans frustrations for a while longer.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

North Dakota Sweeps the Mavs In Omaha's Outdoor Hockey Game

One of THOSE nights for UNO hockey.
Photo (c) 2013
If there ever was going to be any spark for UNO hockey coming out of the program's first outdoor game, it was extinguished by senior goaltender John Faulkner's bad night.  The first two North Dakota shots on goal ended up in the net, as did the fifth shot.  That 3-0 deficit was all North Dakota needed to win UNO's first (and probably last) outdoor hockey game at TD Ameritrade Ballpark.

The Mavs put on a nice comeback attempt in the final 30 minutes and carried the play most of the third period, cutting the North Dakota lead in half to 4-2.  A Danny Christo goal off a UNO turnover in the closing minutes of the game sealed North Dakota's 5-2 victory.

What are my takeaways from the "Battles on Ice"?

I loved the idea of UNO playing outdoors when it was announced, and I still think it was a good idea. The idea of a doubleheader with the Lancers was a bad one.  Too many variables can cause a delay to try to get two games in.  Rain, snow, and yes, even sunshine, as we learned today, presents an issue.  The ice issues that caused the UNO game to be delayed until 6:30 pm weren't anybody's fault.  The schedule that tried to put UNO on the ice in the warmest part of the day was.  Spread the games over two weekends, with each game scheduled for noon on Saturday.  If weather conditions cause a delay, you are only worrying about squeezing one game in over the weekend.  Not two.

And what Einstein at MECA tried to fit two hockey games and a basketball game in one day downtown?  If any Creighton fan is complaining about having to walk an extra three blocks to find a place to park downtown because of soft ice conditions at the hockey game, I have very little sympathy.  Creighton basketball games regularly lead to soft ice conditions at the CenturyLink Center when MECA only allows 3 hours to convert the arena from basketball to hockey.  While the basketball floor may be gone, the ice is in such poor shape, the hockey suffers.

MECA's maintenance crew gets the blame for drilling too deep while setting the pegs for the goal after the ice was resurfaced in the first intermission.  They didn't strike oil; they struck refrigerant...and the gooey green mess took an extra 15 minutes to clear up.

After attending numerous Nebraska football games in November, I didn't have any concerns about the weather tonight.  Yes, it rained - and even a brief snow flurry.  But it was in the mid 40's - at night - in Nebraska.  That's a pretty mild evening.  We were well prepared for the game:  snow pants, blankets, hot packs for our hands and toes.  Even the kids did fine; the biggest issue was the lateness of the game, not the cold.

From my vantage point in the upper reaches of left field, UNO fans did a great job of drowning out the 3,000 North Dakota fans who came to town in the first period.  The rain, snow, cold, and three-goal deficit chased many UNO fans home.  I understand why the casual fan left, but disappointed so many left.  (Truth be told, I saw quite a few North Dakota fans leave as well.)

Did the game suck?  Yep.  But it might have sucked just the same indoors.  Getting swept by North Dakota is not a pleasant thing, but it doesn't mean that an outdoor game was a bad idea.  Here's a news flash:  North Dakota is a pretty good hockey program.  Lots of tradition up in Grand Forks.  They'll be in the national picture in March and April.

UNO's three game losing streak really hurts this season though.  With only six conference games left, it's going to be almost impossible to make up the five points that UNO trails St. Cloud State by.  That being said, Colorado College's three point weekend against Denver moved them into a "team under consideration"...and launced UNO up to 18th place in the PairWise.  As long as Colorado College keeps winning, UNO might still have a shot at the NCAA tournament.
And that's a positive that UNO fans can try to take away from the weekend.

Friday, February 08, 2013

North Dakota Too Much For Mavs on Friday

With about 2,000 North Dakota fans nearly outshouting 7,000 UNO fans in their own barn, the no-longer Sioux skated to a 2-1 victory over the Mavs in the prelude to the outdoor "Battles on Ice" game. UNO got on the board with a Ryan Walters goal about midway through the first period only to surrender the lead when Rocco Grimaldi forced home the tying goal a minute later.

North Dakota dominated the Mavs in the second period, thanks in no part to a five-minute major power play after Tony Turgeon leveled NoDak's Dan Senkbeil in front of the benches.  Watching it live, I didn't see anything illegal, but I wasn't focused on it either.  North Dakota blogger Eric Burton watched it on replay and he didn't see anything bad on it.

ESPN's John Buccigross went on Twitter to express his outrage over the call.
Judge for yourself.
UNO was able to kill off the penalty, but the Mavs had to extend way too much energy fending off the ferocious North Dakota pressure.  A scrum in front of the net resulted in two Mavs falling on top of UNO goalie Dayn Belfour, giving Danny Kristo an easy rebound goal for the game winner.

Belfour had a solid game in his first start of the season. It was a curious choice in the pregame, but solid in hindsight. Perhaps Dean Blais thought Belfour would be extra sharp and motivated in facing off against his father Ed's alma mater.  Perhaps he thought that with the short turnaround for tomorrow afternoon's game, he wanted John Faulkner to have a night off.   Frankly, I don't know that Faulkner could have done much better.  North Dakota was simply the better team on the ice tonight.

And North Dakota's 2,000 fans were the louder fans on the night.  Credit the students for showing up tonight.  It was a good UNO crowd.  But the North Dakota fans that headed south in advance of the upcoming blizzard showed Omaha what they need to aspire to in support.  Tradition.  Enthusiasm.  Dedication.  That's what North Dakota fans showed us with all of those green Sioux jerseys in the concourse.
Some will claim that tonight was proof that UNO had better limit themselves to a 7500 seat arena.  There's only one problem with that idea.  North Dakota fans would find their way into Tranquility if UNO decided to play in a Muni rink. I speak from experience with a rabid fan base.  Ask Notre Dame about Husker fans.  Ask Northwestern. So hey...if you want to sell your program short to try and keep out the invading hordes from Grand Forks, be my guest...but don't be surprised if you find out it backfires miserably.

There's a better solution out there.  Don't worry about the other team's fans.  Worry about building your own home ice advantage.

The Biggest Weekend In Omaha Hockey History Begins Tonight

With so much attention being paid to the outdoor game at TD Ameritrade Park, some might forget tonight's "prelude" at the CenturyLink Center between North Dakota and UNO.  The 6:30 pm game will be televised by NBC Sports Network, and with 2000 or more North Dakota fans in town, it'll be quite the atmosphere.

Even without the outdoor game, it would be a big weekend.  #7 North Dakota sits two points behind the 14th ranked Mavs in the WCHA standings, and UNO desperately needs wins against top-quality opponents to improve their RPI and PairWise rankings. At this point, UNO isn't even near the bubble for the NCAA tournament, so the Mavs have their work cut out for them.  That sweep by Quinnipiac over the holidays really, really hurt.

The two names to watch out for NoDak are seniors Danny Kristo and Corban Knight.  Kristo is tied with UNO's Ryan Walters for third nationally in goals scored, while Knight is tied with Walters for second nationally in assists.  Dakota fans have filled the online Hobey Baker voting with over 23,559 votes for Knight compared to only 4,620 votes for Walters.

Weather continues to look pretty good.  It may rain Saturday night and Sunday, but right now, it looks more likely that the sun will be out during the afternoon.  Temperatures could top 50 degrees, though a stiff southeast wind could affect the game.

Yesterday, the USHL teams took to the outdoor rink to break in the ice.  The Lincoln Stars apparently went first, early in the afternoon.

Today, those unfortunate nets were strung up behind each goal.  I understand the safety reasons why they are there, but  with the seating so far away in a baseball stadium, I was hoping they wouldn't be necessary.  The grounds crew also flooded the rink with more water over the lunch hour.

Everything seems to be shaping up for a huge weekend of hockey in Omaha. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Will Maverick Fans Cheer the National Anthem Chicago Style?

Jim Cornelison, who sings the national anthem prior to Chicago Blackhawks games, will be reprising that role on Saturday afternoon just prior to UNO's "Battles on Ice" outdoor game against North Dakota at TD Ameritrade Park.
You may not have seen Cornelison sing at a Blackhawks game, but you may have caught him on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 when Fox televised the pregame ceremony at Soldier Field.
So that raises the question...will UNO hockey fans stand and cheer during the anthem, Chicago style? That is the tradition whenever Cornelison sings it, such as in 2010 at Wrigley Field.

My thought is absolutely YES.  Some may feel it's disrespectful, but it's anything but.  Remember the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, just days after the first Gulf War began?  That was probably the first time most Americans had heard of this tradition, and nobody thought badly of it.  Most people probably had chills running through their spines.

That being said, if only 30 people cheer during the anthem, it won't have near the impact of thousands of fans.  And those 30 people will probably feel a little silly if they are the only ones doing it.

So what do you think?  I plan to clap and cheer; what about you?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Could Sunshine Be a Problem For North Dakota's Goalie In UNO's Outdoor Hockey Game?

The weather forecast continues to improve for Saturday's "Battles on Ice" outdoor hockey doubleheader.  The Weather Channel calls for a high of 50, and my WeatherUnderground app is calling for sunny skies.  More and more, it looks like precipitation will hold off until later Saturday night or, more likely, Sunday and Monday.

Those sunny skies may present a problem at the start of the game.  The Omaha World-Herald's Rob White reports that North Dakota will defend the "third base" goal in the first period, and yesterday afternoon in the bright sunshine, the sun was still shining on that end of the rink shortly after 4 pm.  Meaning North Dakota's goalie could be staring straight into the sun at faceoff for the first few minutes of the first period.  By about 4:15, the rink was completely shaded, so this probably won't be an issue for long on Saturday if the sun comes out.  This picture was taken about a half-hour prior to the scheduled face-off time; it gives you an idea of how the sun will align with the rink at the start of the UNO/North Dakota game, as well as potentially the end of the Omaha Lancers/Lincoln Stars game.

So now we'll have some hockey purists complaining about soft ice conditions and weather impacting a crucial game in the WCHA standings. I have only one thing to say:  stay home and watch it on TV then.

Are outdoor games a novelty?  Yep. Hockey teams do lots of novel teams.  They wear special sweaters and have silly traditions like throwing a fish or an octopus onto the ice. But "novelty" doesn't make an outdoor game bad.  I'm pretty sure that every player on the UNO and North Dakota roster is probably treating this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play an outdoor game in front of a big crowd.  I doubt any are wishing this game could be played inside.

The ice conditions argument is especialy spurious, specially after the poor ice conditions at the CenturyLink Center last weekend. I've heard lots of whining from some fans over the last couple of weeks that just makes me shake my head.  The tickets are too expensive. The sightlines are going to suck.  UNO fans should have had their tickets in their season ticket package for free.  Yadda yadda yadda.

Lets start with tickets.  The tickets are a little pricey.  Some people throw out the top price of $90...many of which are club seats with access to a nice warm lounge to duck into between periods.  But many tickets are just $30, and these probably are going to have better sightlines than the more expensive tickets.  And $30 isn't bad for two games of hockey.  And when you consider the expense of setting up a portable ice rink (which is apparently around $150,000), it's probably pretty reasonable in my opinion.

Do I want to spend $30 a game regularly for hockey?  Nope.  But for a special event like this, I don't have an issue at all. Not when I don't know when I'll get another opportunity to watch a hockey game like this.
Are the sightlines going to be bad?  Yep.  You are playing hockey in a stadium that was designed for baseball.  Anytime you play a sport in a facility it wasn't originally designed for, there are going to be issues.  That didn't stop college basketball teams from playing games on aircraft carriers - except when moisture presented a safety issue.  That doesn't stop college football teams from playing games in baseball stadiums.  But let's look at this reasonably:  a baseball and a puck are about the same size.  A black puck on a while ice sheet is still easier to spot than a white baseball that goes up into the air against while clouds.  If you are too far away from the field, just bring binoculars.

Look at Northwestern, who yesterday announced an agreement to play football, lacrosse, and baseball at Wrigley Field.  Yes, Northwestern is going to play football again at Wrigley. Five games, in fact.  The issue of only being able to play one way is already being addressed, as work is already underway to make part of the brick wall movable.
Yep,even though Wrigley seats fewer people than Northwestern's home field, the Wildcats want to play at Wrigley.  Why?  Because it's cool.  Cool for fans, cool for the athletes.  I doubt Nebraska gets selected for one of those games, because Husker fans have shown the ability to fill up Evanston.  But you never know, and if the Huskers get selected for a game at Wrigley, it'll be hard to resist the temptation to spend a fall Saturday in the Friendly Confines.

Same thing about this Saturday.  UNO hockey outdoors at TD Ameritrade Park is a one-time cool event.  Sorry, but this is just plain cool:


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

UNO Maverick Outdoor Hockey Forecast Improving

Ice installation continues at TD Ameritrade Park as I write. Logos on the boards are changing, and it appears they are readying the logos in the ice as well.
Ideally, this would be done already so the ice is seasoned by Saturday, but we're not dealing in an ideal world.  This Saturday isn't going to be about a perfect environment, but rather, an environment that we've never had the privilege to take in before, and may never again.  When kids played hockey outside in the past, the ice wasn't perfect.  And the ice won't be perfect on Saturday.  Of course, the ice is rarely perfect at the CenturyLink Center either, especially when MECA only allows three hours for the transition between basketball and hockey.

So how's the weather?  I'm getting a good feeling on the weather for Saturday.  Still talking low to middle 40's for an afternoon high, and the precipitation chances seem to be dropping for game time.  The storm pattern seems to be slowing down; KSHB's Gary Lezak now suggests that the storm may hit the area on Sunday and Monday.  And yes, he used the word "blizzard" again for next week.  Which was my big fear in December; thankfully, it's now looking to be a day or two after the big game.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Outdoor Hockey Rink Update: Ice Being Laid Down

This morning at TD Ameritrade Park, it appears that the first coat of paint went on the ice.  The installation of the boards was completed over the weekend, complete with the glass.  It appears the boards still show the advertising from the figure skating championships; I'm sure that gets taken care of later this week.

The weather forecast might be improving a wee bit.  Precipitation chances seem to be dropping a bit as the storm system may not move in until Sunday.  Accuweather calls for a high of 42, a 35% chance of rain, and winds out of the southeast at 12 mph.  The National Weather Service calls for temperatures in the mid 40's and a 40% chance of rain, increasing to 50% overnight and on Sunday.  Gary Lezak from KSHB is talking that the part of this weather cycle that brought that December blizzard to Omaha will be cycling through the area at the end of the weekend or early next week.  As long as it holds off from Saturday afternoon, I'm fine with that.

I'd still like to see that precipitation percentage disappear, but I'll take mid-40's for the "Battles on Ice".  I'm looking forward to a unique experience when UNO takes on North Dakota outside!. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Would Tom Osborne Jump Into The Race to Replace Nebraska's "Worst. Governor. Ever."

Nebraska Lt. Governor Rick Sheehy's resignation yesterday caught quite a few people by surprise.  Some in the media, for example.  But that was more because of the timing.  Rumors of Sheehy's behavor prompted the Omaha World-Herald and KETV-Channel 7 to request Sheehy's e-mail, phone, and office records.  They did the hard work of investigating Sheehy.

Governor Dave Heineman and his office did nothing.  Nothing, of course, until the World-Herald contacted Heineman for comment for their report on Sheehy's abuse of his state-issued cellphone.

This isn't the first time a political appointee of Heineman has turned to be an embarrassment.  There's David Phipps, the Douglas County Election Commissioner who consolidated polling places in poorer sections of town, yet left two Elkhorn polling places intact despite being only two blocks apart.  And let's not forget Lorelee Byrd, the Heineman designee who resigned before she should be impeached for mishandling $300,000 in state funds as state Treasurer.

"Governor Dave" called it "new information" when he received the information from the World-Herald on Friday.  Except, according to KETV, the source for all of this information is Heineman's office.  Here's the question that "Governor Dave" needs to answer.  When multiple media outlets are making requests to your office for Sheehy's records, wouldn't it be a good idea for your office to look into these a bit further?

Maybe, like, so you can act like you know what you are doing.  People expect that of the governor of the state.  It was funny when punked his license plate contest.  It's not funny when that same incompetence festers corruption.

So now that Heineman's hand-picked successor has now blown up in his face like Wile E. Coyote's plans to nail the Road Runner, next year's election to replace the (thankfully) term-limited "Governor Dave" is now wide open.  Who will emerge?

I'll throw out a name because nobody else has:  Tom Osborne.

Maybe Tom Osborne's political days are behind him.  I don't know what Osborne has planned for the future once his term as "Athletic Director Emeritus" is over.  I don't believe it includes cleaning out the garage.  And I definitely don't think it includes fishing all the time.

Tom Osborne isn't a man who's going to be content to sit around the house.  There's another chapter in the Tom Osborne story.  He didn't sit back in 1998 after retiring as football coach.  He didn't sit back after losing the 2006 gubernatorial primary.  And I don't see him sitting back now. 

Maybe Tom Osborne hasn't given much thought towards running for election again.  This weekend's news has certainly revealed a vacuum in the leadership of the state.  And it's not like Tom Osborne has never ever stepped into a situation like this before.

Maybe Tom Osborne doesn't want to be governor.  Maybe Nancy Osborne doesn't want to become the first lady of Nebraska.  But don't ever assume that Tom Osborne won't do something like this because he's retired.  Osborne has had plenty of encore performances to his coaching career.

Is there one more in store?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Saturday Night's Not All Right for Huskers & Mavs

A sick kid kept me away from UNO's hockey game against Michigan Tech tonight. Sounds like I didn't miss much as  the Huskies won 2-1 in overtime. Judging from the radio coverage, UNO was undone by a combination of a neutral zone trap by Michigan Tech and poor ice conditions. The trap has been an Achilles heel for the Mavs under Dean Blais, negating the speedy game that Blais prefers.

The poor ice conditions are likely the result of  the Creighton basketball game played earlier in the afternoon. Creighton likes playing these afternoon games at 2 pm, which only gives MECA three hours to convert the CenturyLink Center from basketball to hockey. UNO sports information director Dave Ahlers noted with disgust during the second period that some people don't think UNO needs it's own arena.

People like me, for example. He has a point, I suppose.  If you conveniently forget that UNO's arena is planned to support both basketball and hockey, just like the CenturyLink Center.  And, of course, if you forget that the proposed arena couldn't handle the fans that showed up this weekend. Last night, over 8,000 were downtown and tonight, more than 9,200. Yet UNO is only planning to build a 7500 seat arena.

So UNO wants to build a too-small arena that their hockey team still has to share with a basketball team. Yep, that's a good idea. Not.

Did get to watch some of the Nebraska basketball game tonight while listening to hockey. You have to admire how hard this team plays most nights for Tim Miles. The Huskers have dealt several ranked B1G teams fits, though we have to remember that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. We knew going into this season that Nebrasketball was going to be outmanned this season. And they are.

I don't read a whole lot into this season. Doc Sadler's teams played hard too. The real test of Miles will be when he gets B1G caliber players on the court in Lincoln.  And until we get that, I'm still not completely sold on Miles.

Is that harsh? Probably. But so is the reality of Nebraska trying to compete in Big Ten basketball.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Mavs Hang On For 4-3 Win Against Michigan Tech

UNO hockey came out fast tonight against Michigan Tech and held on for a 4-3 victory to keep the Mavs in second place in the WCHA.  First period goals by Johnnie Searfoss and Ryan Walters gave the Mavs a 2-1 lead after the first period.  But UNO had difficulty keeping the momentum the rest of the way as the Huskies came out strong after the intermission. UNO's defense was good enough (or lucky enough at times) to keep Tech from scoring. Andrej Sustr fired home a slapshot late in the second period to put the Mavs up 3-1 after two periods.

Tech dominated the play much of the third period as well, though Dominic Zombo was able to cash in on a rebound to restore UNO's two goal lead with eight minutes left after Tech pulled to within one early in the period. But a dumb penalty by Michael Young for hitting after the whistle led to a power play goal by Tech's Tanner Kero, cutting UNO's lead back to 4-3 with four minutes left.  UNO's defense was good enough the rest of the way to hang on for the win.

It wasn't a pretty win by the Mavs, but it's a win.  UNO was outshot 29-28 on the night; that's a rarity.  Young had a particularly bad game with a frustrating sequence where he misplayed the puck three times on a power play, then was out of position to set up a short-handed chance by Tech.  So UNO escapes a bad performance with a win and two points; can't really complain about that too much.

The win moves #14 UNO to 16-9-2 on the season, and was goalie John Faulkner's 52nd career win. His next win will tie him with Dan Ellis (now with the Carolina Hurricanes) for the school record.  After tonight, UNO sits in a tie for 19th place in college hockey's PairWise standings, which are used to seed teams for the NCAA tournament.  With upcoming series against #9 North Dakota, Alaska-Anchorage, #22 Wisconsin, and Minnesota-Duluth, it's going to take a lot more wins to get UNO in position for the NCAA tournament.  The good news is that if they do that, they'll likely also claim the MacNaughton Cup for winning the WCHA's regular season championship.

Hockey Dasherboards Being Installed at TD Ameritrade Park

Crews began installing the dasherboards at TD Ameritrade Park this morning in preparation for next weekend's "Battles on Ice" outdoor hockey doubleheader.  The weather appears to have slowed down the installation project; the crews spent Wednesday snow-blowing the platform and yesterday was simply too frigid to work.  The cooling system appeared to be installed on Wednesday afternoon, and by the end of the day, about half of the boards had been installed.

The weather forecast for next week continues to fluctuate.  Accuweather is now calling for 46 degrees and a 74% chance of rain in the afternoon.  KSHB-TV's Gary Lezak continues to talk about a storm moving into the area at the end of next week.  Hopefully any bad weather hits Friday or Sunday.