2001-02 Nebraska-Omaha Season Preview


I was of three minds,
Like a rink
In which there are three Mavericks.

Two consecutive trips to the CCHA championship tourney in their first two years of league membership — do you think anyone is underestimating these Mavericks now?

While UNO graduated a large senior class that included the last of the “original Mavericks,” the Mavericks return three players who are among the top in conference at their respective positions.

Snow Flying in Creases

From the net out, the Mavericks are sound defensively. Dan Ellis was the difference — by two goals — in a thrilling, three-game, first-round CCHA playoff series against the Buckeyes, and if you saw him play those three games, you’ve got to believe that even if the rest of the team has a rare off night, Ellis will be there to keep UNO in the game.

Ellis, a 2001 member of the CCHA All-Rookie Team and finalist for league rookie of the year, posted a 2.49 GAA and .911 save percentage. Backing Ellis are Rodney McLeod and Brian Haaland.

“We feel blessed to have three very strong goaltenders,” says Mike Kemp. “Dan Ellis came into his own last year as a freshman and became a dominating goaltender. He carried the ball for us game in and game out as he played extremely well. He will be supported by Rod McLeod and Brian Haaland, who are capable of contributing and challenging him every step of the way.”

Next to Of Course Ellis, They …

“I feel that, from a depth perspective, defense may be our strongest position,” says Kemp — and why not? Led by 2001 All-American and CCHA First-Teamer Greg Zanon, whom Kemp calls “the workhorse on the blue line,” Ellis has solid players fronting him.

The blue line also features seniors Daniel Samuelsson and Zach Scribner, as well as last year’s rookies Mike Gabinet and Jason Jaworski.

“Scribner and Samuelsson are both three-year lettermen with a tremendous amount of experience in the number games they’ve played at the Division I level,” says Kemp. “Jaworski is coming off a solid inaugural season … and we expect him to continue to develop.

“Mike Gabinet, just being drafted after his freshman year, has shown a great deal of potential to become a very steady and very sound defenseman.”

The Emperor of Ice Dreams

The Mavericks have one of the league’s top forwards in David Brisson, whose 22 goals and 25 assists made him the team’s top scorer last season. In fact, that’s a title Brisson has held for two years running, and it’s unlikely he’ll relinquish it.

"[W]e … have the unsung heroes who go out and do things that are vital to winning hockey games, things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheets."

— UNO coach Mike Kemp

In addition to Brisson, Jeff Hoggan, and Andrew Wong are legitimate threats, while Scotty Turner is expected to emerge.

“We have a good core of forwards with experience and skill,” says Kemp. “We will expect these players to go out and provide the firepower it will take for us to win hockey games.

“We’ve got several players who can put up offensive numbers, but just as importantly, we also have the unsung heroes who go out and do things that are vital to winning hockey games, things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheets.”

Among those unsung heroes, according to Kemp, are Aaron Smith and Joe Pereira.

Mavericks, Get Your Guns!

The one area where UNO really needs to improve is goal production. The Mavericks were seventh in the league last season in goals per game (3.00) and 10th on the power play (.149).

Clearly, with their experience and solid defense, if Nebraska-Omaha puts together more than two solid lines, they’ll be able to contend for the league title.