Monday, November 03, 2014

UNO Hockey Starts Season Strong

Four weeks ago, UNO lost an exhibition game to Canada's Northern Alberta Institute of Technology 4-0, which might have been the Mavericks worst hockey game ever.  I wasn't there, so I really couldn't say if it was or not, but losing to a Canadian team is bad enough, but getting shut out is far worse. Of course, UNO didn't play most of their upperclassmen and chose instead to give most of the ice time to UNO's 11 freshmen, so it wasn't exactly a preview of what UNO hockey was going to be in 2014-15.

Since then, UNO has gone 4-1-1, with the only loss being to Mankato, an NCAA tournament team last season in the opening weekend of the season. This past weekend against Cornell, the Mavs tied 1-1 on Friday and won 2-1 on Saturday night.  Cornell started the season ranked 18th, but now it's the Mavs who are ranked 19th nationally.

This is a pretty fantastic start for UNO hockey, considering that they won't have another home game until November 21st with one of the weirder schedules I can remember.  Six straight road games with two bye weeks followed by eight straight home games during the Christmas season is not common.  This weekend, they travel to Columbus to face Ohio State, with the Saturday night game running concurrent with the Buckeyes' football game against Michigan State.  (That'll draw quite a crowd in Columbus; "Oooh! Ahhh! Not bigger than a Knights crowd!")

The biggest deal about this UNO team is that it's ridiculously young; the top scorers are sophomores Jake Guentzel and Austin Ortega.  Six of the top eight scorers are freshman and sophomores. Forward Dominic Zombo and goalie Ryan Massa are providing plenty of leadership; Zombo is third on the team in scoring. And Ryan Massa has been sparkling in net, with a 1.38 goals against average and a .952 save percentage.

We can talk elsewhere about why UNO shouldn't be building a new arena that can't hold an average Mav hockey crowd, but if you are looking to build a new arena and want to build some buzz around it, a young team like UNO is putting on the ice is just the way to do it.  It'll be interesting to see how this team continues to develop in the upcoming weeks.  What looked like it might be a lost season is starting to look rather intriguing.  Wins against east coast teams out-of-conference really help a hockey team's resume as the season unfolds, and an undefeated weekend against Cornell is definitely a positive sign.

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