An eagerly anticipated return to Baxter Arena awaits the UNO hockey team this weekend.
The Mavericks, who haven’t played at home since Oct. 12, will host Wisconsin in games Friday and Saturday. Start time for both is 7:07 p.m.
UNO is 4-1-1 following a win and a tie last week at Alaska Anchorage.
“It was a long weekend but a good weekend,’’ coach Mike Gabinet said. “It was a physical series, but we competed hard.’’
He added that it was obvious the team is happy to be home.
“The boys have been buzzing around the rink in practice,’’ he said. “It seems like we’ve been gone a long time, and they’re happy to be back in their beds.’’
Senior defenseman Ryan Jones said the Mavs are looking forward to playing in front of the home fans.
“We have one of the best crowds in college hockey,’’ he said. “It is good to be home.’’
Jones added that a winning record is a positive start for a young team that includes 12 freshmen.
“We got off to a tough start last year,’’ he said. “It’s nice to have success early, but we need to keep growing and learning.’’
The 20th-ranked Mavs might not be catching the 12th-ranked Badgers at the best time. Wisconsin is coming off a pair of road losses against Penn State.
“They’re an extremely talented team,’’ Gabinet said. “They have four or five first-round (NHL) draft picks, so it will be a huge challenge for us.’’
Senior forward Zach Jordan said the Mavs can’t dwell on the Badgers’ star-studded roster.
“They have a lot of draft picks, but we have to look past that,’’ he said. “We have to be disciplined and play our game.’’
UNO continues to ride the hot goaltending of freshman Isaiah Saville. He has started four of the Mavs’ five games and has a goals-against average of 2.17.
Only a few games into the season, UNO’s Isaiah Saville already has made his presence felt.
“He’s consistently taking steps in the right direction,’’ Gabinet said.
Saville, who is from Anchorage, made 50 saves in last week’s games.
Another freshman making an impact is Brandon Scanlin. He was named the NCHC rookie of the week with a goal and two assists against Anchorage.
Wisconsin enters the game 4-4, but two of those wins came against two-time defending national champion Minnesota Duluth. The Badgers are 1-3 on the road.
“They’re a skill team,’’ Jones said. “We’ll have to play hard defensively and play the way we know how.’’
» The Badgers are coached by former NHL standout and Wisconsin alum Tony Granato, who is in his fourth season at the helm. His record is 52-56-10.
» The Mavs have scored first in four of their six games and are 3-0-1 when doing so.
» UNO ranks third in the conference and 13th nationally in offense, averaging 3.67 goals per game. The Mavs also lead the NCHC and are seventh nationally on the power play, clicking at 30.3 percent.
» The Badgers lead the series 8-4-1.
» UNO hits the road again next weekend with a pair of games against Western Michigan.