The identity of Nebraska-Omaha is high-flying action and heavy offense. The Mavericks lost a lot of players in the offseason who contributed to that style, but there’s plenty of youth ready to not only fill in, but expand upon their roles.
“Up front, we lost three of our top six scorers but we have a lot of guys returning who had great years so we have good balance,” said coach Dean Blais. UNO’s top three scorers in 2010-11 — Joey Martin, Rich Purslow and Matt Ambroz — are gone.
A few returning players Blais referred to were Alex Hudson (13-18–31) and Terry Broadhurst (11-19–30). But Hudson, a captain and the Mavericks’ leading returning scorer, was suspended indefinitely by the school in late September.
And then there was the promising rookie class featuring Matt White (14-11–25), Ryan Walters (11-12–23) and Brock Montpetit (11-10–21), who all played a significant role in UNO’s high-powered offense last season.
“Because they were so talented, they got a chance to play and they contributed,” Blais said. “The more ice time they got, they improved to the point where they were contributing a lot.
“We had times last year where we played three freshmen together and it didn’t seem to matter because they got the job done.”
UNO’s incoming freshmen class will be counted on to bolster its blue line, just like last year’s rookies gave the offense a boost.
“We have two freshman in Brian O’Rourke and Jacob Megna on ‘D’ that have been impressive,” Blais said. “Jacob got a lot of ice time and played very well for us in the exhibition game against British Columbia.”
If it all comes together, the Mavericks shouldn’t have a problem reaching the Final Five. Of course, that was an expectation last season, too, when the Mavericks went 0-5-1 against Bemidji State and were swept out of the WCHA first round by the Beavers.
“We had a lot of good up-and-down games against [BSU] last year and we couldn’t find a way to beat them,” Blais said. “[BSU goalie] Dan Bakala was great in those games. He might get to the NHL if any scouts saw him play against us.”
About the Mavericks
2010-11 overall record: 21-16-2
2010-11 WCHA record: 17-9-2 (third)
2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Fourth
Key losses: D Eric Olimb, F Matt Ambroz, F Rich Purslow, F Joey Martin
Players to watch: G John Faulkner, F Alex Hudson, F Terry Broadhurst, F Matt White, F Ryan Walters
Impact rookie: F Jayson Megna
Why the Mavericks will finish higher than the coaches poll: UNO’s sophomore forwards will continue to score and Faulkner will have another solid season in goal.
Why the Mavericks will finish lower than the coaches poll: The lack of veteran leadership will hurt the Mavericks, especially with junior captain Hudson suspended indefinitely.