By Brian Brashaw
Once again, it is Michigan week here at UNO. This time, however, it is crunch time.
The Maverick hockey squad will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., this weekend to play the Wolverines in a two-game series that has more implications than any other the Mavericks have ever played. On the line, outside of respect, is second place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
The last match-up between UNO and Michigan showed the bitterness between these two squads, as they fought and clawed themselves through two overtime games, of which Michigan took one and the other ending in a tie. Michigan earned three points on the series and the weekend began a skid for the Mavericks that would land them as low as eighth place in the conference.
Both teams are now on respectable streaks. UNO has won eight straight games, while Michigan has won three in a row. UNO stands three points behind Michigan and will need a sweep to take over second.
Both teams’ goaltenders are coming off of weekend shutouts, but Dan Ellis for UNO has the edge over Michigan’s Josh Blackburn as of late. Ellis has only allowed one goal in sweeps of Lake Superior State and Miami-Ohio. Blackburn boasts a 15-8-5 season record with a 2.37 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. Ellis has a 17-9-3 record with a 2.32 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
Michigan’s top scorer, Mike Cammelleri, is out with mononucleosis and will not play this weekend. The Wolverines’ top producers outside of Cammelleri are John Shouneyia (8 goals, 23 assists, 31 points) and former Omaha Lancer Jed Ortmeyer (8G, 14A, 22P). UNO is led by Jeff Hoggan (18G, 18A, 36P) and Andrew Wong (9G, 26A, 35P).
With only three conference series left and eight points separating second place from sixth, the importance of this series is compounded. The top six teams in the conference will host conference playoffs series.
Friday’s game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit and will be carried locally by Fox Sports Net. Game time is 6:05 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.