A new rivalry against a familiar head coach. A new league member with designs on the MacNaughton Cup.
UNO is new to the WCHA, but the Mavs have been running over teams so far, outscoring league opponents Minnesota, Mankato, and St. Cloud 26-13 and posting a near-flawless 5-0-1 record in conference play. It is also worth noting that only the Mavs vs. Mavs series against MSU-Mankato was a home series for Dean Blais’ squad.
Nebraska-Omaha is leading the conference in almost everything: scoring offense, scoring defense, power play, penalty kill, and penalty minutes. It will be interesting to see (check that; hear, since the games aren’t televised anywhere) which style of game and rivalry develops between these first-time opponents.
Against most teams, North Dakota would like to play five-on-five, roll four lines, and use depth as an advantage. UNO may be the one team in the league who can survive and thrive in that type of game.
Dave Hakstol needs two wins this weekend to reach 100 WCHA victories for his career, but his counterpart on the other bench rarely loses at home, dropping just three contests at Qwest Center in two seasons as head coach of the Mavericks.
Nebraska-Omaha Team Profile
Head Coach: Dean Blais (2nd season at UNO, 28-17-7, .606)
This Season: 8-1-1, 5-0-1 WCHA (t-3rd)
National Rankings: #4/#4
Last Season: 20-16-6, 13-12-3 CCHA (6th)
Team Offense: 4.40 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.40 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 24.5% (12 of 49)
Penalty Kill: 88.5% (46 of 52)
Key Players: Senior F Rich Purslow (4-10-14), Senior F Matt Ambroz (7-4-11), Freshman F Matt White (6-5-11), Senior D Eric Olimb (0-8-8), Sophomore D Bryce Aneloski (1-4-5), Junior G John Faulkner (8-1-1, 2.22 GAA, .924 SV%, 1 SO)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (7th season at UND, 162-88-25, .635)
This Season: 7-4-1, 6-2-0 WCHA (2nd)
National Rankings: #8/#7
Last Season: 25-13-5 overall (NCAA Northeast Regional semifinalist), 15-10-3 WCHA (t-4th)
Team Offense: 3.17 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.83 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 24.1% (14 of 58)
Penalty Kill: 82.8% (48 of 58)
Key Players: Junior F Jason Gregoire (4-6-10), Sophomore F Corban Knight (7-6-13), Senior F Evan Trupp (3-6-9), Senior F Matt Frattin (10-2-12), Senior D Chay Genoway (1-8-9), Sophomore G Aaron Dell (6-3-0, 2.38 GAA, .888 SV%, 1 SO)
By The Numbers
This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams, so tonight’s opener qualifies as the most important meeting between the two teams.
Game News and Notes
Nebraska-Omaha is the only unbeaten team in WCHA action. Sioux senior forward Matt Frattin has 20 goals in his last 24 games. Under Dean Blais, the Mavs have only lost three times in 25 home contests (20-3-2). UND senior defenseman Chay Genoway needs one point to join the Century Club for his career. Only eight other Sioux blue liners have ever eclipsed 100 career points. (Can you name them?)
I have a feeling that tonight’s opener will be wide open and the teams will tighten up in Saturday’s rematch. The first game feels like a “4-3 either way” type of contest, and I’ll give the nod to the homestanding Mavericks, with North Dakota taking the rematch. UNO 4-3. UND 2-1.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you’d like, post your guesses for the eight Sioux defensemen with 100 career points.