No. 18 Omaha splits series with No. 6 North Dakota

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Photo courtesy OMavs

Ray Koch
SPORTS EDITOR

While you were on winter vacation, the men’s hockey team was playing two series against top-25 teams.

They started out with a home series against then ranked #19 Union College. The Mavericks, who hadn’t played in almost three weeks, played as if they hadn’t skipped a beat. Omaha outclassed Union for the better part of two games, winning both in high-scoring fashion. That was the first home sweep of Mike Gabinet’s reign as head coach. It also put the Mavericks at #18 in the latest rankings.

Last weekend they traveled to Grand Forks, N.D., to play bitter rival #6 North Dakota. North Dakota has been one of the top teams all year, while Omaha has shown high points and low points. This weekend was just that—high and low. Omaha opened up on Friday night and came out swinging. Tied at 1-1, Omaha scored three unanswered goals to win the game, 4-1. Like the Union series, turnovers created scoring opportunities for Omaha, and excellent passing and exquisite finishes equated to goals. The Mavericks have looked like a top-10 team throughout parts of this season, but to put it together against the most hated rival, and the 6th ranked team in the country was something special. Jake Randolph, David Pope, Fredrik Olofsson and Luke Nogard each scored for Omaha.

Saturday night the two teams squared off again, for the last time before the Hawks come to Baxter on Feb. 16-17. It was a completely one-sided affair, as North Dakota slaughtered Omaha 7-0. In a game where everything went right on Friday, it was the exact opposite for the game on Saturday, where Omaha was shut out for the third time this season. Much of the talk was that of the decision to start Kris Oldham in net for Omaha. Evan Weninger, who has started most of the season, made 34 saves in the win on Friday night. He did not start on Saturday, however, and Omaha’s already hobbled defense got torn apart.

Regardless of the score on Saturday night, Omaha has shown in the past two series that they are a team that is not only a tough, scary team, but one that has the potential to beat any team on any night if they play their hockey. Omaha returns to home to face Miami in an NCHC conference battle. This is a series that Omaha will be looking for a sweep. Miami is a good team as well, but in the competitive NCHC, they have a 4-5-1 record compared to Omaha’s 3-7-0 mark.

Losing Mason Morelli to an ACL injury will sideline him all year, but the time off before the series kicks off on Jan. 12 will surely help defenders like Dean Stewart and Jalen Schulz, who are still questionable. There is still two months left in the season, but if Omaha wants to boost its chance to make the postseason, two wins against Miami are a must. For Omaha, it’s time to go from dangerous to legit contender.

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