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College Hockey:
Blais sings decidedly different tune after UNO’s latest loss to Alabama-Huntsville

Despite the nation’s two highest-ranked teams, Merrimack (by Providence) and Notre Dame (by Northeastern) each succumbing to sweeps over the weekend, perhaps the biggest shocker in college hockey occurred in, of all places, Nashville, Tenn. The Music City hosted winless Alabama-Huntsville and a Nebraska-Omaha team tied for second in the WCHA on Friday night in the second matchup in the just over 10 months between the schools.

And for the second time in roughly 10 months, the Chargers came out on top with a 3-1 victory over the Mavericks at Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL’s Nashville Predators.

UAH’s last win? A 2-1 overtime win on Jan. 29 over none other than UNO in Omaha. The Chargers had gone winless in all 17 games since that meeting including an 0-14-1 record this season while being outscored 60-11.

Following January’s loss, Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais was fairly philosophical in his post-game comments after his team fired 59 shots at Alabama-Huntsville goaltender Clarke Saunders.

“We got to the net but just didn’t get any puck luck,” Blais told USCHO’s Matt Semisch at the time.  “Every once in a while, the puck will bounce off a skate or something (and go in), but when you get that many attempts, it’s either down to bad luck or good goaltending, and I think (tonight) it might’ve been a little of both.

“You give their goaltender credit, but we’ve got to be a little bit sharper in our execution.”

But Friday night’s loss elicited far more pointed remarks form UNO’s veteran bench boss in a story posted on the Omaha World-Herald’s web site.

“It was poor execution all over the ice,” Blais said. “We normally have our short pass game going, but it wasn’t there tonight. It was a total team breakdown, and it started with our mental preparation.

“It’s one of the few times in the three years I’ve been here that our effort hasn’t been there. I’m embarrassed.”

Although Saunders was, once again, a factor for UAH with 44saves, Blais would not allow his team anything resembling a crutch after a loss which will likely prove to be far more damaging to UNO from a Pairwise perspective than its predecessor.

“It wasn’t that their goaltender was standing on his head,” Blais said. “He made some saves, but … it was sloppy play all over the ice. We’ve got to move the puck and execute.”

To the Mavericks’ credit, they bounced back on Saturday with a 6-2 win to earn a split in a series played before announced ‘crowds’ of 957 and 1,364.

 

CC needs Rylan Schwartz back as soon as possible

Just around the time Rylan Schwartz scored his sixth goal of the weekend to complete his second hat trick in two nights last week at North Dakota, he suffered an injury that kept him out of Friday’s game against Denver. That, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Brian Gomez.

CC beat the Pioneers without Schwartz, Friday, but that was only a one-game series. Schwartz leads the Tigers with 13 goals and is tied with his brother, Jaden for the team lead in points (17).

The Tigers need to score goals to win because of a goaltending situation that hasn’t necessarily been the best and a defensive corps that has looked lost on some of the goals its given up the past couple weeks. Without a dangerous offensive weapon like Rylan Schwartz, other guys like Nick Dineen and Gabe Guentzel must fill in.

CC coach Scott Owens told Gomez he hopes Schwartz will be ready for this weekend’s series against Alaska-Anchorage, but even if he heals in time, the Tigers will lose Jaden when he leaves for Saskatchewan, Saturday to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. He’ll be gone for five games.

CC’s fourth-highest scorer, Scott Winkler, is expected to play in the World Junior Championships Division I Group A, according to Gomez’s story.

Though the Tigers don’t have a whole lot of tough teams on its upcoming schedule (UAA and Minnesota State), there’s enough parity in the WCHA for an upset or two.

 

Michigan Tech got swept at home and it won’t get easier

The Huskies went into the weekend with a winning record in the WCHA and had a shot to gain more points and the earn respect it’s been thirsting for all season with Minnesota-Duluth in town.

The Bulldogs swept Tech with a pair of 5-3 outcomes. The Huskies have lost five of their last seven games.

And now comes the hard part; the Huskies go to first-place and fifth-ranked Minnesota this weekend (the ranking as of Monday morning. It’s likely to shoot up this afternoon).

Then Tech plays a single game at unranked, although ninth in the current PairWise, Northern Michigan, Dec. 17. The Huskies are in the field of four in one of the nation’s toughest Christmas tournaments, the Great Lakes Invitational. They’ll face No. 16 Michigan State in the semis with either No. 19 Michigan or No. 2 Boston College waiting the next day.

The Huskies face NMU again in mid-January followed by a trip to UMD, just to make everything full-circle.

Don’t forget there’s a home series with UAA in there, but this upcoming stretch will tell a lot about Tech, and whether or not its 6-2-1 start was just a mirage.

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  • Mr Hockey

    So after Northeastern swept Notre Dame in South Bend this weekend it looks like the Gophers Holiday tournament isn’t that bad after all. Gophers should move back up now that Merrimack got a dose of reality.

    • Anonymous

      Where is Merrimack even located?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IBX3ZLT5XKNZDOL2YZHPVX27VI STEVEN P

         North Andover, Massachusetts(25 miles N of Boston.)

      • Spidermonkey86

        It’s a suburb of Lawrence MA and kind of a dump. I go to a few games they charge 25 bucks a ticket even when they sucked. arena is like a HS or municipal skating rink.

        • Guest

          Spidermonkey first off, Merrimack is located in North Andover, home of multiple current and former Bruins not Lawrence, which is indeed a dump. Second, you must not have attended any games lately because I would hardly consider the Lawler Arena of today a dump, it still needs work and is continuing to improve but i certainly wouldnt call it a municipal rink

          • spidermonkey86

            Guest:

            First read comment I said a suburb or Lawrence which it is.

            Second I went to two games last year and one this year….Yup still a dump…half the seat don’t even face the arena

          • ABC123

            Lol sorry man I love Merrimack but Lawler sucks

        • Cariocagringo

          Well now, say what you will about the Thom Lawler Arena, but North Andover is a swanky lil community and far nicer than South Bend, Rochester, Grand Forks, Omaha, and any jerkwater located in rust belt shitehole states like Ohio and Michigan.

  • Philipvanschepen

    You’re supposed to schedule cupcakes for holiday tourney. Early speculation had Princeton as the tough opponent. Northeastern looks for real. Last year Gophers stunk up their own tournament. this year looks brighter.

  • Spanky

    Just as I predicted, whch USCHO ran those rediculus columns about how MTU is changed with thier new coach and everything….well MTU will colapse and be a bottom feeder team as usual in the WCHA. The bright side is that in 2 years, they should be able to compete in the new WCHA after all the good teams leave and the CCHA bottom feeders are brought in.

    • Superspanky

      Bottom feeders like Ferris State, Lake Superior State, and Northern Michigan?  Teams currently ranked nationally in the 9th, 15th and 22nd positions? 

  • Bulldog

    bulldogs should be number one now not the gophers. we have had a much tougher schedule than the gophers have had

    • Guest

      I’m OK with the Bulldogs #1 right now and I would normally agree with your logic, but to me the 2-0 Gopher advantage in head-to-head play should tip the scales.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IBX3ZLT5XKNZDOL2YZHPVX27VI STEVEN P

        But,but,but….the Bullpuppies outshot the Gophers,so those wins don’t count.

        • Guest

          lol you lost to vermont, wisconsin, st cloud state, and michigan state

      • Guest

        the bruins lost to the coyotes at the beginning of last season that must mean the coyotes are better!

        • Guest

          But the Coyotes don’t have more wins than the Bruins to go along with a better offense and defense…

    • Mr Hockey

      You mean it got tougher now that Huntsville beat Omaha….lol…I suppose you’re going to hang your dog leash on the fact that Providence swept Merrimack also? Gophers haven’t yet and won’t get swept all year.

      • Guest

        They won’t get swept all year? That’s kind of a big statement and totally pointless. What if they do get swept, then does that mean they aren’t any good.

        They have some difficult road games coming up right? 2 in Denver, 2 at UND (given the act that UND is now seeming to play better) and at Omaha and I fully expect UNO to play better the second half with Blais as their coach they have to get better than they were this weekend. Most teams in the WCHA are going to have an off week and Minny will not be any different. maybe they don’t get swept, maybe they do. I don’t like them but that won’t change my opinion of them as one of the better teams in the nation (unless of course it happens against a really bad team).

        Just seems like such a bad statement and one that doesn’t matter. Good luck with that. 

        • Mr Hockey

          Good teams find ways to avoid sweeps.

    • Wilma Dickfit

      The Gophers are 4-0 against Frozen 4 teams from last spring, including a 2 game SWEEP of the defending National Champions on the road. Yep, cupcake schedule alright.

    • Wilma Dickfit

      UMD fans shouldn’t even bring up the subject of schedule toughness, they have the easiest schedule in the WCHA this year. The 3 teams UMD plays twice are: Alaska Anchorage, MSU-Mankato and Michigan Tech. All 3 of which will be in the bottom 4 teams at the end of the year. Minnesota meanwhile has to play North Dakota, Wisconsin and St. Cloud twice. It’s pretty clear who has the easier schedule – UMD by far.

  • The Wooger

    UMD can think they’re #1 for now, that’s fine. We all know they’ll be peeing their pants when they have to face the Gophers again.

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