By Nick Beaulieu, Editor-in-Chief
The Sports Editor chatted with senior goalie Ryan Massa over the bye weekend about winning goalie of the week, what we know about the team so far, the new arena and more.
Ryan Massa’s career as a Maverick has had its ups and downs since coming to Omaha four years ago. The senior has battled injuries and missed time for personal reasons. But as a junior last season, Massa strung together 11 wins- including a playoff win against Denver.
Perhaps the greatest feeling came after Massa was awarded NCHC goaltender of the week this season after UNO swept Western Michigan to go 3-1 to start the year. Still, Massa directed the attention to his teammates.
“The team had a great weekend, some of the best team play I’ve ever seen this early in the season,” Massa said. “I really like the new additions in the lineup.”
The Mavs and their 11 freshman hit the road for two consecutive road series, at USCHO No. 18 Cornell and Ohio State the week following.
Early Season Findings
Five of UNO’s first seven series this year are on the road.
“I think our schedule is a really good one this year,” Massa said. “All you have is your teammates on the road. Getting to know your linemates and teammates is great early on. [It’s] huge.”
UNO was swept by Cornell at home last year, and lost the second game in brutal fashion, as the Big Red scored four power play goals on just 13 shots on goal to win 4-3.
The penalty kill was the Mavs crutch early on last season, so far it’s proving to be a team strength.
“Going 10 for 10 on the penalty kill last week was good to see [as] last year early on in the season we were abysmal at the penalty kill until about Christmas Break,” Massa said. “It’s all about execution. Our job is to outwork their five and playing with a sense of urgency.”
Massa finds that being on the road early in the year helps in that it takes pressure away from playing in front of your family and fans when you’re still trying to figure things out.
The New Arena
Regarding playing in Omaha, Massa looks forward to the new arena, especially having experienced the various environments around the country in his long career.
“The new arena next season is a great symbol for the support and the fan base from the UNO community,” Massa said. “Switching to an arena from [about] 20,000 to 7,500 is going to be louder and it’s going to change the electricity in the building.”
Of the 59 teams listed on USCHO, UNO has the second largest home arena in capacity with 16,680, second only to Ohio State at 17,500. Yet, last year’s average attendance was just 6,331. Attendance for the Mavs home regular season opener against Minnesota State was 5,780 and the second game of the series had just 4,517.
UNO will be closer to getting consistent shutouts in the new home.
Massa thinks hockey is a very effective spectator sport.
“It’s a fast-moving, entertaining game where there’s action every second,” Massa said. “You look at sports like baseball or football, it’s a few seconds. With hockey its go go go, especially with coach Blais [who] runs very high pace high tempo hockey.”
Massa recognizes that despite the strong support from the niche hockey culture in Omaha, it’s not the most understood sport in the heartland, especially for many students. He believes all it takes is giving it a chance and the understanding of the game will follow.
“The fine-tuned mechanics of the game are very similar to football. Understanding nickel or dime package in football is what highly knowledgeable fans will know,” Massa said. “Hockey has a lot more moving parts as far as the pace of the play. The more you watch it, the more you’re around it the more you’ll understand the game.”
Bottom line, the senior said it’s about putting the puck in the other team’s net, and if you get that you’ll have a fun time.
“You don’t have to be an ESPN hockey analysts to enjoy it,” Massa said. “The more you’re around it, the more you will understand the mechanics, the penalties, the rules, and specific things.”
Future Between the Pipes
Many teams ride their goalie game after game when he’s hot, some teams prefer to split games or series between goaltenders. Massa is prepared to perform in any role or circumstance.
Last season as a freshman, Kirk Thompson was in the net for five Mav wins and started vs. Minnesota State this year in game two.
“Blais is big that you have to play well to stay in the lineup,” Massa said. “Every day in practice is a tryout.”
You can say the Mavericks have had various strengths in certain areas the last few years, but goaltending is scarcely mentioned.
“It’s an area we’ve really struggled in the start,” Massa said. “Inconsistent is the best way to put it. Going out this way this early is a great way to building confidence.”
Consistency is the word that Massa continually mentions when describing what he needs to do, and if he maintains the current consistency, UNO should have no worries about their netminder.
“When my name gets called it’s just my job to stay consistent and give my team the best chance to win,” Massa said.