UNO continues to roll, SCSU still looking for spark

After seeing all 125 minutes of the Nebraska-Omaha/St. Cloud State series at the National Hockey Center series this weekend, the reasons why the Mavericks went into St. Cloud ranked fifth and how they deserve their new No. 4 ranking, became very clear.

UNO is big, fast, will beat you to the loose pucks, distrupt your passing game and make you pay for your mistakes. The Mavericks (8-1-1, 5-0-1 WCHA), which have an NCAA championship-caliber coach in Dean Blais, have one of the nation’s best offenses and John Faulkner is one of the WCHA’s most solid goaltenders.

Across the rink outside the home dressing room, the Huskies continued to search for answers to the direction the team has gone so far. Few envisioned SCSU’s early-season fall from grace in which the Huskies (4-5-1, 2-3-1) went from No. 4 in the preseason rankings to receiving just 11 votes six weeks later.

This weeekend was the perfect opportunity for SCSU to escape the early-season funk and gain back some respect. Instead, UNO confirmed their eye-catching entrance to the WCHA isn’t a fluke.

It seemed the Mavericks thwarted nearly every SCSU effort to advance the puck through the neutral zone in the first period Friday and completely took the Huskies offense out of the game. In fact, UNO had a 2-0 lead with 5:00 left in the first period and SCSU was still looking for its first shot on goal.

Huskies coach Bob Motzko commented to the St. Cloud Times’ Mick Hatten, “We were just standing around. It was like we were in quicksand early in the game” and added, “We didn’t play for (the first) 31 minutes.”

Saturday’s game started a lot differently. Jared Festler scored to put SCSU on the board first and the Huskies led by two goals late in the third period but Matt Ambroz scored for UNO right before the second intermission.

Then, in another third-period SCSU breakdown, the Mavericks outshot the Huskies 14-3 while Matt White and Ryan Walters scored to take a 4-3 UNO lead. It was the fourth time this season SCSU has lost a third-period lead and opponents have outscored the Huskies 9-2 after the second period in SCSU’s five losses.

Sure, SCSU has looked flat to this point of the season but it’s too soon to write the Huskies off. The Huskies returned their top 13 scorers from 2009-10, with the exception of Ryan Lasch, and have more scoring ability than their 2.83 GPG average indicates.

Garrett Roe needs to get more involved offensively. He tied Lasch for the team lead in goals with 20 last season and only has two through 12 games this year. SCSU can get it turned around and finish in the WCHA’s top half but some drastic changes need to happen.

There’s no doubt UNO will be in the top six and should contend for the MacNaughton Cup. It’d be one thing if the Mavericks were simply riding a hot goalie but for the reasons stated at the top of the page, UNO will continue to play at this level.

UNO’s upcoming series against North Dakota this weekend in Omaha will tell a lot about where the Mavericks stand.

*On a side note, SCSU’s Tony Mosey faces felony charges after a witness accused the forward of walking on a car and caving in its roof early Sept. 20 in St. Cloud. A St. Cloud Times report said Mosey’s actions caused around $3,500 in damages.

It doesn’t appear Mosey will miss any more playing time. The report said Mosey will make the trip for SCSU’s weekend series at Alaska-Anchorage. He served a two-game suspension for the incident in an exhibition against Manitoba and the season opener against RIT.