By Avery Wenck, Sports Editor
No one needs to be informed at the the University of Nebraska at Omaha that hockey is the biggest sport on campus; it’s pretty well known. Everyone in Omaha understands that if you want to go to the CenturyLink and be entertained this year, UNO hockey is definitely your best bet.
Omaha’s team travelled to Colorado this weekend to take on National Collegiate Hockey League opponent Colorado College and were able to pick up their first conference win on Friday against conference leaders Omaha in a 3-4 win.
Initial reaction to the loss was difficult because of Omaha’s past problems with starting seasons strong but then falling apart toward the end. Obviously, a team like UNO should be beating a team like Colorado College, but upsets happen. Also, when you think about that being the first road game for the Mavericks in over a month, it was always expected that there would be some rust to shake off. Still, Omaha was able to score three goals in the loss and prove that a struggling offense was not the reason for their hiccup.
For Maverick fans and staff, watching the game proved to be a difficult task. Aksarben Village was the place to be to catch the game, with Dudley’s and DJ’s Dugout both offering the game on their TVs. The streaming service offered by Colorado College was subpar, and made the viewing process incredibly hard.
The Mavericks will be disappointed to drop points to a lesser opponent like the Tigers, especially with a difficult schedule coming the rest of the season. The main story coming out of that game will be the suspension of our captain defenseman Brian O’Rourke for two games. He did not play on Saturday and will miss the first game against North Dakota in two weeks.
They redeemed themselves on Saturday, however, with a convincing 4-1 victory, something they’ve done over the course of the season after a Friday night loss. Avery Peterson had a fantastic night scoring two goals and contributing an assist as well. Tanner Lane and Austin Ortega were also on the score sheet for the Mavericks.
A question that has been on the mind’s of a lot of Maverick fans is the questionable personel changes to the lineups. With Ryan Massa seemingly fit to return from injury, the Mavs opted to go with sophomore Kirk Thompson in goal. While some would say it made sense due to the strength of the opponents, it might have made more sense to allow Massa to regain any match fitness he lost over the course of his time out. Also, the decision over the past couple of series to split up the lines, especially the first line of Ortega, Zombo and Guentzal, has been an experiment that has not worked with the normal lineups often returning in the second period.
There’s clearly something special going on with UNO hockey this year. Despite having hiccups throughout the season, they have consistently shown character to regroup and not let those losses affect them. Even while dealing with injuries, the next player in line has been able to step up and fill voids for the Mavericks.
The character and resilience this team has shown against some of the biggest opponents in the country both home and away is special. The team is young; there’s certainly no denying that, but the balance of young talent and veteran leaders has created a winning roster that, along with legendary coaching, has the opportunity to do some big things this year. Omaha is currently second in the pairwise rankings and jumped into the top 10 of United States College Hockey Online rankings last week, sitting in eighth. Omaha will host North Dakota at the CenturyLink Center on Jan. 30 and 31