UNO coach Dean Blais can't pinpoint the reason freshman forward Tanner Lane was a healthy scratch Dec. 30 at Quinnipiac.
But he can't complain about what's happened since.
Lane had picked up an assist for his first career point the day before against the Bobcats, but UNO suffered a disappointing 5-4 loss.
“I think we just wanted to play everyone,” Blais said, emphasizing that Lane wasn't benched for his play. “Giving up that many goals (the previous game), it wasn't one particular player — it was more goaltending and lackadaisical defensive play. Forwards can add to it, but a lot of it was our defensive corps.”
Lane, a 20-year-old from Detroit Lakes, Minn., who was drafted by Winnipeg in the sixth round in 2010, had been in the lineup for 13 of the Mavericks' previous 15 games before getting that afternoon off.
“You never want to be out of the lineup,” Lane said. “I did try to get back to work that next week in practice and get after it.”
By the end of that week, Lane was skating on the same line with high-scoring forwards Matt White and Dominic Zombo.
On his first shift with his new linemates, he scored a goal — the first of two — against Colorado College.
And he's handed out assists in each of the last three games, including a quality head-man pass to White on a breakaway in UNO's last game, a tie Jan. 12 at Denver.
So all six of Lane's points have come during his five-game point streak.
“I'm playing pretty confidently right now,” Lane said. “I'm getting more comfortable every day.”
Now, though, UNO is shuffling lines again heading into its WCHA series this weekend at Bemidji State. Lane is expected to skate alongside Josh Archibald and Brian O'Rourke, a defenseman who will once again be pressed into duty at right wing.
“It doesn't matter that they've changed it up,” Lane said. “I've just got to play the same way.”
Prior to his breakout with White and Zombo, Lane had skated the opening game of the Quinnipiac series on a line with two defensemen — O'Rourke and Brian Cooper.
“You've got a little bit of a different (defense-first) mindset there, just take care of things in your own end and hope for the best on the offensive end,” Lane said. “But you're still going out there trying to work hard and doing the best you can for the team.”
Lane played two seasons in the USHL, starting out with Fargo (Blais drafted him, but then took the UNO job before coaching him) and finishing up with the Omaha Lancers. In 117 career USHL games, Lane had 17 goals and 37 assists.
But he went without a point in his first 13 games with UNO, including 11 WCHA games.
“He maybe started a little slower than I expected, but he's made some good progress the last month,” Blais said. “It's a tough league for freshmen to come in and be impact players.”
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For Lane, it was never about hitting specific statistical goals.
“I never looked at it that way,” he said. “I focused on earning a spot and keeping it. You want to produce any time you're on the ice, but playing with Zombo and Whitey, it was a good opportunity for me.”
Was it ever.
“We needed someone to go there, and Tanner has always been a scorer,” Blais said. “Now he's got to make plays. Being on one of the top lines, when he gets an opportunity, hopefully he puts it away.
“Other guys, you give them that opportunity and they'll miss the net or shoot it into the goaltender, but Tanner has the skill level to add some offense.”
Lane, 6-foot-3 and 184 pounds, also tries to take advantage of his size. And he's looking to add more as his career progresses.
“It's tough for me to gain weight, and it's tough for me to maintain weight throughout the year,” Lane said. “But over the summer I want to gain close to 10 pounds — nothing too drastic — just to be more solid.”
Blais, who'd like to see Lane add 7 or 8 pounds annually, would like to see him add to his goal total each season, too.
“I think he'll be a 10- to 15-goal scorer,” Blais said. “That could still happen this year, but more than likely it'll be his sophomore, junior and senior years that he'll be able to chip in that kind of offense.”
» MAV NOTES: Winger Johnnie Searfoss, who has missed the past four games with a back injury, has skated in an orange “no-contact” jersey in practice this week and is questionable for this weekend. ... Brock Montpetit (ankle) and Zahn Raubenheimer (knee) aren't expected to play this weekend. ... O'Rourke, filling in at forward because of the absence of Searfoss, Montpetit and Raubenheimer, missed Tuesday's practice because of illness. Defenseman Tony Turgeon also could be pressed into service at forward.
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