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UNO opens 25th year of NCAA hockey with season-setting 10-game homestand
HOCKEY

UNO opens 25th year of NCAA hockey with season-setting 10-game homestand

From a new coach to reaching the Frozen Four, check out the history of UNO hockey since 2010.

When UNO hockey begins its season Saturday night against Lake Superior State, 10 and 25 are the operative numbers.

The 7:07 p.m. game at Baxter Arena will be the first of 10 straight home games for the Mavericks, who will embark on their 25th season of NCAA play. The second game of the series will be Sunday at 4:07 p.m.

Coach Mike Gabinet said that early-season homestand — UNO won’t play a road game until Nov. 12 — could give his team an edge.

“I think it’s an advantage for us,” he said. “I’m looking forward for a chance to play in front of our fans and establish momentum.”

A mask policy remains in place for Baxter Arena, but attendance is not restricted. UNO began last season in a pod format with no fans, and there was limited attendance the second half of the season.

“We’re looking forward to a good season,” Gabinet said. “With lots of fans in the building.”

The Mavs were 14-11-1 last season while competing under pandemic protocols. UNO qualified for an NCAA Regional but its season ended in the opening round against Minnesota.

Senior forward Taylor Ward said those memories will help drive the Mavs this year.

“It’s definitely motivation to get back there,” he said. “It was a great experience.”

UNO, ranked 17th nationally, was picked fifth in the NCHC preseason media poll. That might be a conservative estimate with the return of almost everyone, plus the addition of four freshmen and Minnesota transfer Brannon McManus.

“We have a lot of experience,” team captain Kevin Conley said. “We have pretty much the same lineup coming back, and that should make us better than we were last year.”

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Mavs’ schedule in 2020-21 consisted entirely of league teams. UNO’s first five series this season are against nonconference foes, starting with Lake Superior State.

The Lakers also qualified for an NCAA Regional berth last year, losing 5-1 to eventual national champion Massachusetts.

“They’re a team like us, having a good season and making it to regionals,” Gabinet said. “They’ll be a very good opponent.”

The Mavs return their top 15 point-producers from last season, while juniors Isaiah Saville and Austin Roden return in goal. Saville started 23 of 26 games and had a 3.03 goals-against average.

Ward said they'll once again rely on a team-first mentality.

“Individual achievements are secondary, and I think we can all agree on that,” he said.

Notes

» Lake Superior State won the WCHA last season but was one of seven schools that applied to leave that conference to form a new version of the CCHA.

» Gabinet begins his fifth season as UNO’s coach with a 54-69-11 record.

» The four freshmen on the Mavs’ roster are forwards Cameron Berg and Ty Mueller and defensemen Victor Mancini and Davis Pennington.

» Chayse Primeau and Tyler Weiss were UNO’s top scorers last season with 23 points.

» Damon Whitten enters his eighth season as the Lakers’ head coach.

» The teams last played in 2016 and UNO holds a 16-9-5 edge in the series.


Omaha World-Herald: Local Sports

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Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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