It’s another game weekend for the UNO hockey team.
The opponent: UNO.
The Mavericks, with their final weekend off of the regular season, scheduled 7 p.m. scrimmages for Friday and Saturday at Civic Auditorium.
“This time of year, I think it’s all about routine,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “We’re sharp and we want to keep sharp.”
Coming off a weekend in which they earned four of a possible six points in a series at Miami (Ohio), the Mavs want to keep moving forward into a big home series next weekend against No. 5 St. Cloud State, which leads the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 23 points.
“I think it will help a lot,” said captain Michael Young, a senior defenseman. “We’re in the routine of playing that late. We’re in the routine of our bodies expending energy that late. So in that way it’s not like a bye week at all.”
UNO, though 9-11-2 overall, is one of three teams tied for second in the NCHC with 21 points — the Mavs are 6-4-2-1 in league games.
Meanwhile, St. Cloud State played Minnesota in a nonconference matchup on Friday night, and completes its weekend with another game in the North Star College Cup on Saturday.
“It’s nice to stay in the game mentality,” said alternate captain Dominic Zombo, a junior center. “A week off, it’s sometimes tough to maintain focus. With a game-style practice at 7 o’clock, we don’t really lose anything going into next week.”
UNO has taken the ice twice this season after a break, and the result was less than favorable each time.
Riding high after going 6-2 in November, UNO was off Thanksgiving weekend and then came out flat in a 4-2 loss to last-place Colorado College the following Friday. UNO picked up two of a possible three points by winning a shootout with the Tigers the following night.
Then the Mavs went nearly a month before playing a game, and when they returned they were swept at New Hampshire in a pair of three-goal decisions (6-3 and 5-2).
Combined with the CC series (the second game is officially a tie), the Mavs’ winless streak grew to six games when they were swept at home by Minnesota-Duluth and to seven when they tied (and lost the shootout) Jan. 17 at Miami.
But they broke out of the funk with a 5-1 win over the RedHawks the following night.
“Any time you have more than two weeks off, it’s tough to come back and be in game shape,” Zombo said. “So I think we’re going to be fine. It’s only a week off and we’ve been working pretty hard.”
The weekend scrimmages, scheduled to last less than 90 minutes, include even-strength skating as well as power-play and penalty-kill work.
“We’re happy with where we are on both — probably for the first time all year,” Blais said of the Mavs’ special teams.