There’s another contender in UNO’s goalie competition.
Ryan Massa came out of a redshirt season and played the first two periods of the Mavericks’ 3-2 exhibition loss to Team USA on Saturday night before 3,030 at the CenturyLink Center.
“We’ve talked about it as a coaching staff, and Ryan has practiced extremely hard and practiced extremely well,” UNO assistant Troy Jutting said. “We’re in a situation here, with two weekends to go in the league, where we have an opportunity to do some great things.
“We wanted to see where we were at with our three goaltenders — and Ryan wanted to play. It was Ryan’s decision whether he wanted to play this year and take the redshirt off.”
Massa stopped 28 of the 29 shots he saw before John Faulkner played the third period.
The U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad scored twice within 89 seconds midway through the third to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead and held on to improve to 5-7-4 in exhibitions against Division I teams.
Massa — who rejoined the UNO program at the semester break when freshman hotshot Anthony Stolarz left for major junior hockey — played more than both Faulkner and Dayn Belfour last season.
Now he’s in position to potentially earn more minutes in net next weekend in a key WCHA series with Wisconsin.
“We had meetings this week, and Coach (Dean) Blais asked what my thoughts were about playing,” Massa said. “I had come to him a couple of weeks ago, putting the bug in his ear that I wanted to contribute and wanted to be a part of this team and make a hard run with it.”
Only four games remain before the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, but despite having his redshirt pulled so late, there’s no guarantee Massa will be in the lineup against the Badgers.
“We don’t make those decisions until Thursday and Friday of this coming week,” Jutting said. “A lot will depend on practice this week like it always does with all our guys.”
Massa was 7-8-2 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .914 save percentage for UNO last year, but he suffered a late-season concussion and wasn’t happy how he played thereafter. He’d decided to take the year off and was working out with the Omaha Lancers when Stolarz left.
“There are definitely no guarantees whatsoever,” Massa said. “It’s strictly performance-based. I’ve got to compete with two great goaltenders here.”
Meanwhile, how do you know it’s an exhibition game rescheduled from Thursday because of weather?
Well, the “Mavboni” driver — who collects the ceremonial fish thrown on the ice after UNO’s first goal — took the night off. A stadium worker with a shovel did the honors.
And Blais wasn’t in the building — he was on a recruiting trip.
And, most telling, UNO’s scratch list included high-scoring forwards Matt White and Josh Archibald, captain Brent Gwidt and steady defenseman Michael Young.
Team USA, an impressive skating group, put 45 shots on goal, while UNO managed just 17.
While allowing that it’s not easy to be sharp and motivated with a less-than-your-best lineup for a late-season exhibition, Jutting also said the Mavs “got what they deserved,” and that it was “probably worse” than the 3-2 score indicated.
Team USA is “obviously an extremely talented hockey team,” Jutting said. “You’ve got three, four, maybe even five first-round draft picks on that team. We didn’t lose to a poor hockey team. Just disappointed we didn’t have a better effort from some of our guys.
“While there were no standings to worry about and no points on the line, for some of our guys there was (future) playing time on the line.”
UNO’s Ryan Walters and Nick Seeler each had two assists, while Dominic Zombo and Zahn Raubenheimer each scored a goal.
In games that counted Saturday, St. Cloud State beat Colorado College to increase its first-place WCHA total to 33 points, Minnesota tied Minnesota-Duluth to take sole possession of second place with 31 points, and North Dakota beat Denver to tie the Mavs for third place with 30 points.
“It’s going to be tight over the last two weekends,” Jutting said, “and that’s what makes this league so great.”
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