North Dakota series transcends rankings and standings

Photo by Evan Ludes/ The Gateway Omaha showed up in droves this weekend, with over 11,000 fans on Friday and 10,500 on Saturday showing up to cheer on their team.
Photo by Evan Ludes/ The Gateway
Omaha showed up in droves this weekend, with over 11,000 fans on Friday and 10,500 on Saturday showing up to cheer on their team.

By Nick Beaulieu, Editor-In-Chief

A moral victory is a word losers use to find the silver lining. Everyone knows it.

The Mavericks won Friday and lost Saturday night, but it was about much more than just three NCHC points. It was about more than some extra votes from the voters. It was more than a moral victory.

Since its 1997-98 birth, Maverick hockey has been UNO’s baby. Our first, and for a long time only, Division-1 sport. It’s the one thing not named Chuck Hagel that has had the ability to put our school on the map.

Our hockey team has been the heart of our university, and it’s also broken the hearts of fans, alumni and students, struggling to get over that hump and become a staple program.

This weekend, the fluke talk was silenced. The previous collapses forgotten and the rivalry between these two teams, celebrated throughout the city.

A full page cover in the Omaha World-Herald, the lighting of the Woodman Tower in black in red. New NU President Hank Bounds and Gov. Pete Rickets were showed at the game and they, along with hundreds of other new hockey fans, experienced the mojo Friday night that many UNO students and alumni have had supporting this program over the years.

Husker football? Irrelevant. Creighton basketball? Cue the sad trombone track. Mavericks hockey has taken the city and state by storm. Find a better team out of the four major sports in the state.

And while Omaha may never be a hockey town, if there’s one thing Nebraskans can rally behind, it’s winning. Whether they have UNOties or not, Omahans want to make national noise.

UNO hockey is doing that. Match-ups like No. 1 North Dakota vs.No. 5 UNO attract more eyes than just your national college hockey fans—scouts, coaches and young hockey players.

People across the country (and some in Canada, I’m sure) saw a team from Omaha beat the team that has had legends like Jonathan Toews and T.J Oshie rep the green and black.

UNO is laying the groundwork for a juggernaut program. Weekends like this are the bricks of that foundation, and this series was another chapter in the book that is UNO’s transition.

Diehard Mavericks fan group the Red Army said it best: so far, UNO has been the “David” facing off against the “Goliaths.” But this is where we take that step.

“It’s a giant step forward,” Dean Blais said, following the series. “To score three goals on them tonight and do what we did last night, I thought we’re not that far away.”

Not far away from being the Goliath.

While our hockey team continues to build a reputation as a top level program in the country, our other sports do what hockey has always done: battle and build.

With the already steady progress of our university in all aspects, added with the growth of athletics, it’s never been a better time to be a UNO student. Both attendances Friday and Saturday night surpassed the capacity expected at UNO’s new home next year.

Brian Cooper said following Saturday’s game that Omaha is starting to realize they have a contender.

And he’s right in more ways than one.