Mavericks in search of more power plays

UNO captain Matt White said the Mavericks have committed too many careless penalties that have given opponents power-play chances.

UNO converted power-play goals in five straight games from late December to early January and scored with the man-advantage in six straight games in November.

Overall UNO's power play has been very solid with a 20 percent success rate (18 of 90) that ranks seventh among WCHA teams and 17th nationally.

So what's the problem?

UNO coach Dean Blais would like to see it a little more often.

“It's almost to a point where we have a pretty good power play in practice,” Blais said. “But if we don't get the opportunities in a game, we're not going to get any better at it.”

Presented with some interesting statistics, Blais was cautious about getting drawn into UNO's special teams deficit.

The 14th-ranked Mavericks, who host Michigan Tech in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at 7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Saturday, are coming off a road sweep of Bemidji State in which they had just one power play each night.

In WCHA games, UNO is a whopping minus-18 when comparing power-play chances to penalty-kill situations. That's the worst figure in the league, and a bit of a head-scratcher considering UNO (15-9-2, 11-5-2) has 24 points, as many as top-ranked Minnesota, and sits just one point behind first-place St. Cloud State.

Minnesota, by comparison, has had 26 more power-play chances than penalty kills. St. Cloud State is plus-24. The team closest to UNO is 10th-place Bemidji State, which is minus-12 after getting five power plays to the Mavs' two last weekend.

UNO tries to play a style that would lend itself to power-play chances.

“We're a skating team that drives to the net,” Blais said. “You want to avoid the undisciplined penalties, and we've taken a few of those … but we haven't taken many and we haven't been given a lot.”

Among the teams above .500 in WCHA games besides UNO, only Denver (minus-2), North Dakota (minus-8) and Wisconsin (minus-11) have had fewer power plays than penalty kills.

“There's a couple of situations where we could stay away from penalties,” UNO captain Matt White said. “And there are also some where the place we're playing doesn't help — in an environment like Bemidji last week, it was very emotional because our record had been so bad against them. Maybe we were too pumped up.

“And we've also had a lot of careless penalties, like too many men on the ice, that could have been prevented.”

UNO has had more power plays than its opponent in only one WCHA series this season, a 10-9 advantage in its sweep of Minnesota-Duluth on Nov. 10 and 11. One of the more interesting weekends was its split at St. Cloud State on Dec. 7 and 8, where the Mavs had one power play for the weekend against seven for the Huskies.

“You hope that by having good cycles and holding the puck in our offensive zone and continuing to play our game that it evens out,” Blais said. “But when there's that far of a discrepancy at this point of the season, it probably won't.”

At least the Mavs can take solace in knowing that all isn't lost when they are killing off penalties. They have a league-high five short-handed goals in WCHA play — no other team has more than three.

“It's a little frustrating, especially on the road, where you want the power play chances to maybe hold onto a game and get that extra goal,” White said. “That really would have helped us Saturday in that 2-1 game. But we've got a great penalty kill, and we're getting chances on our penalty kill, too.”

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