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Ice Hockey

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photo courtesy Omaha Athletics

Ray Koch
Sports Editor

Welcome to hockey immortality, Jake Guentzel. The 22-year-old who went from Maverick hockey-star to NHL rookie-phenom is now a Stanley Cup Champion. What a year.

After scoring goals in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final, Guentzel continued to pace the Penguins, as they went on to win the Stanley Cup in six games. He finished the postseason with 21 points, which ties the all-time rookie postseason record. He also led all players in scoring throughout the playoffs, including five game-winning goals.

The storylines of this year’s NHL playoffs were about legacies. A lot of the talk was about Sidney Crosby, and how these playoffs would define his career. It goes without saying that Crosby wouldn’t be raising his second straight Conn Smythe trophy, awarded to the playoff’s most outstanding player, if it wasn’t for a fellow line-mate who seemed to make plays when Crosby was locked down.

Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby were a nasty duo that nobody could seem to stop in the playoffs. As Guentzel helped Crosby cement his place in the ranks of the best hockey players of all-time, Guentzel established his own legacy. Like it or not, Penguin’s fans have found their “next Sidney Crosby,” in the form of a 22-year-old from who played collegiate hockey for the UNO Mavericks.

It’s only natural that Guentzel will have such high expectations to live up to. When you outscore every other player in the league throughout the playoffs, even with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on your team; and you’re a rookie, you’re going to turn lots of heads. For some reason, however, the spotlight never gets too big for Jake Guentzel.

After going from college hockey to the AHL, and finally the NHL, Guentzel finally has time to relax and celebrate how far he has come in such a short amount of time. His first taste of celebration came last Thursday, when the Penguins had their Stanley Cup Parade throughout Pittsburgh.

He may have already etched himself into the hearts of Pittsburgh fans forever with his playoff performance, but he added to the legend that is Jake Guentzel when a video surfaced of a fan asking Jake to sign a beer for him. The 22-year-old’s six-word response had the internet calling him “legendary.”

After being handed the beer, Guentzel said with a smile, “I sign it, you chug it.”

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Jackson Taylor

The No. 7 Omaha hockey team was blanked this weekend in two home losses against unranked Miami (OH). The Mavericks lost 3-1 on Friday, then 7-3 on Saturday. With the losses, Omaha falls to 15-8-1 (5-8-1 NCHC) on the year. The Mavericks have lost four straight at Baxter Arena, after starting off 9-0 in their new home.

Game 1: L 3-1

Both the Miami and Omaha offense got off to late starts in Friday night’s conference matchup. The first period displayed a defensive battle with the two teams coming up empty on a combined 15 shots.

Miami’s Kiefer Sherwood broke the 0-0 tie at 13:47 with a shot that found its way past Omaha goalie Alex Blankenburg just under the crossbar. It was Sherwood’s fourth goal of the year.

The Mavericks were able to even the score early in the third period. At 3:32, Luc Snuggerud found Austin Ortega waiting in the left faceoff circle who sent a shot past MU goalie Jay Williams.

Despite outshooting the RedHawks 14-12 in the third, Blankenburg allowed a late goal at 17:57 from defenseman Matthew Caito. Miami’s Kevin Morris then scored an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left to seal the victory.

Overall, Omaha was outshot 34-28. Blankenburg made 31 saves but took the loss, falling to 1-1 on the year.

Game 2: L 7-3

In the series finale, the Miami offense exploded for 7 goals, with six of them coming in the second period.

The RedHawks once again got the first goal when forward Connor Lemirande scored late in the first period, sliding a shot past junior Oma-ha goalie Kirk Thompson.

Miami wasted no time in the second period as Kevin Morris scored just 42 seconds in. Sean Kuraly then scored at 3:12, opening the offensive flood-gates.

Lemirande would go on to score two more goals for his first career hat trick. Anthony Louis and LaVelle then scored 55 seconds apart to complete the scoring onslaught.

Omaha freshman Mason Morelli would notch two goals and Ian Brady scored late to make the final score 7-3.

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By Jackson Taylor

The Omaha hockey team is now 15-16-1 (5-6-1) after splitting their series against No. 1 North Dakota over the weekend. The No. 9 Mavericks beat UND on Friday 4-3 before losing 5-1 on Saturday night.

Game 1: W 4-3

With regular starter Evan Weninger sidelined with an injury, freshman goaltender Alex Blankenburg made his first collegiate start in Omaha’s 4-3 overtime win on Friday.

Blankenburg helped the Mavericks end UND’s NCAA-best eight-game winning streak. The freshman finished the night with 26 saves.

North Dakota jumped out to a quick lead, scoring in the first eight seconds of a power play, early in the first period.

Omaha tied the game just two minutes later when Jake Guentzel netted a rebound at 15:31, part of his four-point night and 11th goal of the year.

Early in the second, the Mavericks took the lead off of a top-shelf goal from Ian Brady. It was the second goal of the year for the sophomore defenseman.

UND evened the scored again during a 4-on-4 stretch late in the second period. Troy Stecher netted the equalizer for the Fighting Hawks, a goal that would be reviewed but upheld.

Omaha shocked the UND crowd with .8 seconds to play in the period, when Jake Randolph slipped a shot past UND’s goaltender Cam Johnson in the nick of time. Johnson leads the NCAA in goals against average and saves percentage.

After UND tied the game again in the third, Ortega once again came up in the clutch with his 17th goal of the year at 2:29, sealing the Maverick victory. Ortega now has 19 career game-winning goals.

Omaha’s Friday night win marked their first when allowing the first goal of the game (1-5-0).

Game 2: L 5-1

North Dakota evened the series on Saturday with a 5-1 victory, their 200th win at Engelstad Arena.

After Omaha got on the board first, UND scored five unanswered goals.

Tyler Vesel put Omaha on top early off a powerplay at 17:55 with Jake Guentzel earning the assist.
Just two minutes later, UND evened the score off its own power play. Drake Caggiula got one past UNO goaltender Kirk Thompson with 7 seconds left to go in the first.

The Fighting Hawks took the lead at 3:33 in the second period on a goal from Drake Caggiula and then extended their lead, sending Thompson to the bench who was replaced by Blankenburg. Thompson made just six saves on the night.

UND poured it on in the final minute of play as Troy Stecher and Luke Johnson scored goals 57 seconds apart. Blankenburg finished with 12 saves on 14 shots, and Thompson took the loss, moving him to 4-4-1 on the year.

Omaha returns home for their next series against Miami (OH) on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 22-23. Friday’s game is set for 7:37 p.m. and Saturday’s will start at 7:07 p.m.


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By Jackson Taylor

The Omaha hockey team found over the weekend that all streaks must come to an end, after they were swept by Denver, ending their perfect 8-0 mark at home this season. The Mavericks were blanked on Friday night, 3-0 and lost a tough battle on Saturday, 4-3. With the sweep, Omaha falls to 14-5-1 (4-5-1) on the season.

Game 1

No. 6 Omaha struggled to find their way offensive in their first game with No. 17 Denver. The Pioneers jumped out to a quick lead on Friday, as Will Butcher netted a goal at 3:57. This marked the first time Omaha had surrendered the first goal of the game at Baxter Arena.

Less than 30 seconds later, Denver’s Blake Hillman placed his first collegiate goal past Omaha goaltender Evan Weninger to put the Pioneers up 2-0.

Shortly after at 10:19, Weninger had to be taken off the ice due to an injury and junior Kirk Thompson took his place.
Relatively even play ensued until Butcher slapped his second goal of the night, a top shelfer past Thompson, to extend the lead to 3-0.

UNO struggled to convert on any of its six power plays and looked out-of-sorts on both ends of the ice. All of Omaha’s 35 shots were stopped by Denver’s Tanner Jaillet — the first time the Mavericks had been shutout all year.

Denver was outshot and had more penalties than Omaha on the weekend, but made the most of their chances during the NCHC series.

Tanner Lane battles for the puck against a Denver defenseman Evan Janssen during Omaha’s 3-0 loss at Baxter Arena on Friday.

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Game 2

Saturday night’s series finale started off similarly to Game 1 with Denver jumping out to 3-0 lead that they held into the third period.

Omaha was able to climb back in thanks to two quick goals from Justin Parizek during a powerplay and from Jake Randolph just 39 seconds later. Jake Guentzel earned his 100th career point on his assist to Randolph.

After a DU goal extended their lead to 4-2, UNO’s Mason Morelli netted a rebound with 4 minutes to play in the game.

Despite outshooting Denver 28-18, Omaha could not find the equalizer and fell to 0-5 when surrendering the first goal of the game.

Omaha returns to action on Friday when they take on rival North Dakota. Puck-drop is scheduled for 7:37 Friday in Grand Forks, N.D.

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Courtesy of UNO athletics
Courtesy of UNO athletics

By Jackson Taylor

After a week off, the Omaha hockey team will host Arizona St. on Dec. 19-20 at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. This will be the first matchup in history for the two teams, as the Sun Devils are in their first season as a Division I hockey program.

No. 5 UNO comes into the game at 12-3-1 and 6-0 at Baxter Arena. The Mavericks are coming off of a split series with No. 6 St. Cloud State. Omaha fell in the first game of the weekend 4-1 be-fore firing back with a 7-2 win in the Saturday game.

Omaha is led offensively by junior forwards Jake Guentzel and Austin Ortega. Guentzel has 10 goals, 14 assists and a team-lead-ing 24 points on the season. Ortega leads Omaha in goals scored with 12 and has 5 game-winning goals

In the net for Omaha will likely be freshman phenom Evan Weninger. The 19-year-old from
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has to-taled 322 saves on the year, good for a .947 save percentage and a 9-1 record. Opponents are averaging just 1.92 goals against Weninger on the year.

In their first year in the NCAA, Arizona St. is 5-10 on the year and 2-10 on the road. The Sun Devils average 2.3 goals per game and give up an average of 3. ASU is coming off a sweep at the hands of Rensselaer this past weekend.

The Sun Devils are led by Jordan Masters who has 5 goals, 11 assists and 16 points on the year. Masters has also sat for 28 penalty minutes on the year, a team high that has led to the team giving up crucial short-handed goals.

Ryland Pashovitz will likely be in the net for ASU this weekend. Pashovitz has made 351 saves on the year for a save percentage of .919. The freshman, who also hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, allows an average of 2.99 goals per game and is 4-7 on the year.

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The Omaha hockey team moved into the top five in both college hockey polls this week.

The Mavericks are ranked fifth in both the USCHO.com top-20 poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top-15 poll. They have not ranked outside the Top 10 in either poll since the season began.

Omaha is one of five NCHC teams in the USCHO.com poll, joining North Dakota (4), St. Cloud State (6), Denver (11) and Minnesota Duluth (17). North Dakota, Omaha and St. Cloud State all hold the same spots in the USA Today poll with Denver coming in 12th and UMD receiving votes but no ranking.

The Mavericks are coming off a critical split at St. Cloud State last weekend, losing the opening game of the series, 4-1, before rebounding for a 7-2 victory in the finale. They are now 12-3-1 overall and 4-3-1-0/0 in the NCHC, good for fourth place.

Omaha is off until Dec. 19-20 when it hosts Arizona State at Baxter Arena.

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By Jackson Taylor

Game 1
The first period displayed a defensive matchup with several penalties and only nine shots combined in the first 10 minutes. No. 6 Omaha’s ability to kill powerplays was once again displayed as was they were able to kill three OSU powerplays in the first period.

With two minutes to play, UNO went on a lengthy offensive attack that included four shots on goal, but came up empty and the two teams went into the break tied. After one period, Ohio State narrowly led UNO 8-7 in shots on goal.

Omaha wasted no time in the second period with a goal at 1:12 from Luc Snuggerud off an assist from Austin Ortega. It was the first of the year for the sophomore defenseman.

“Whenever you can get a goal out of a defenseman it’s good for the team,” Snuggerud said. “If you can get that extra production out of a defenseman it’s huge.”

On the same scoring play, OSU was hit with a penalty for high-sticking. Three Ohio State chances were turned away by Weninger during Omaha’s powerplay, keeping the game at 1-0.

Despite being outshot 16-13 midway through the second period, UNO extended its lead to 2-0, 6 minutes in. A sharp cross-ice pass from Justin Parizek led to David Pope’s second goal of the season at 6:23.

At the end of two, the Buckeyes had outshot the Mavericks 24-20 but Omaha maintained its 2-0 lead.

OSU finally got on the board off a power play after 14 minutes of scoreless hockey in the third period. With Weninger pinned on the ground in the midst of a scrum, OSU’s Craig Dalrymple snuck in a goal at 12:53. The goal went under review and was eventually confirmed to cut Omaha’s lead to one goal.

With just two minutes to played and Ohio State with an extra man after pulling their goalie, Weninger made a series of tough saves to keep Omaha’s 2-1 lead. Then with 1 minute to play, Ortega found the empty net to make it 3-1.

Weninger made 34 saves on the night to improve to 7-1-0.

Luc Snuggerud said that although the team was plagued by power plays in the game, the Maverick penalty killers rose to the occasion.

“It’s tough to get some momentum going after getting penalties,” he said. “Taking a penalty forces us to go back in our zone and pack it in. I thought our penalty killers did a great job tonight.”

Head coach Dean Blais didn’t discount the win, but thought that his players were sluggish to start the game.

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Game 2

The Mavericks improved to 8-0-0 in nonconference games and 6-0-0 in Baxter Arena after their 6-4 victory over Ohio State on Saturday night.

Omaha was given a scare from OSU after the Mavericks led 5-2 but surrendered two goals in the third period. Jake Guentzel scored into an empty net to make the 6-4 final.

The Mavericks jumped out to another hot start as Austin Ortega netted a rebound just 30 seconds into the first.

OSU responded with a goal of their own late in the first as Mike Gillespie pushed a deflection past Weninger to tie the game at 1-1.

Guentzel scored his first goal of the game on a power play just minutes after OSU’s goal when he snuck a goal under Buckeye goalie Matt Tomkins.

UNO’s powerplay carried over to the second period and Ortega was able to take advantage to score his second goal of the game. It was Ortega’s team-best 12th goal of the season.

Just two minutes later, David Pope scored his second goal of the weekend. Pope’s goal came off of a Guentzel assist. Fredrik Olofsson extended UNO’s lead to 5-1 during a powerplay when he scored from the low slot at 15:37.

Omaha was given a scare late as OSU scored three goals between the end of the second and third periods. Jake Guentzel scored into an empty net in the final minute to make the 6-4 final.

Snuggerud said Omaha’s undefeated record against non-conference opponents are important to the team.

“That’s gonna be huge for us at the end of the season in the PairWise,” he said. “These non conference wins are very big for us.”
The Mavericks are now 11-2-1 overall and will hit the road for its next series against No. 7 St. Cloud St. on Dec. 4-5.

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Jackson Taylor

After a disappointing series at Western Michigan two weeks ago, the Omaha hockey team got back on track against No. 6/7 Minnesota Duluth in their homecoming weekend. No. 8 Omaha swept UMD, winning 4-2 on both Friday and Saturday. Omaha improved to 8-2-0 overall and 2-2 in conference play.

Game 1

Omaha earned their first NCHC victory on Friday behind a bounce back stellar game from freshman goalie Evan Weninger. Weninger had given up three goals in the first period of UNO’s 6-1 loss to West- ern Michigan in the prior week- end. Against UMD, he recorded 45 saves, tying Dan Ellis for sixth all-time in UNO history for saves in a game.

The Mavericks snatched an early lead as Jake Guentzel slid a pass to Brian Cooper for a five-hole goal just 24 seconds into the game.

Freshman Fredrik Olofsson tacked on another goal for UNO late in the first period when he placed a deflected puck past UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo to make it 2-0. The goal moved Olofsson’s goal to- tal to four on the year.

As expected, UMD came storming back in. The Bulldogs took advantage of a power play and cut the lead to one midway through the second as Austin Farley put a rebound past Weninger.

“Duluth didn’t quit,” head coach Dean Blais said. “They’ve got good speed and good players up front.”

With less than 5 minutes to play in the second, Omaha extended their lead to 3-1 on a powerplay. Steven Spinner took a shot at the goal that deflected off of Austin Ortega’s skate and into the net.

UMD once again took back a goal during a powerplay in the third when Kyle Osterberg scored off a rebound. The Bulldogs went on to outshoot Omaha 19-6 in the third, which allowed Weninger to shine.

Jake Randolph tallied an empty net goal at 18:47.

Duluth head coach said despite the end result, his team competed and played certain parts of the game well.

Game 2

Following an explosion of three goals in the third period, Omaha improved their NCHC record to 2-2 with a 4-2 victory over UMD on Saturday.

Saturday’s game was a dogfight for two periods, with each team mustering just one goal and both Weninger and Kaskisuo holding their own in the net. Weninger put up 35 saves, giving him 80 on the weekend and improving his record to 5-1.

Justin Parizek put Omaha up early with a short-handed goal just four minutes in. Solid defense by each side pushed the game to the second period with UNO on top 1-0.

UMD’s Dominic Toninato evened the score at 13:52 in the second, his fourth of the season.

With the game knotted up at one in the third, Jake Guentzel came up big again at 13:29 with a shot off a rebound from David Pope.

Olofsson got in on the fun 42 seconds later as he tapped a pass from Tanner Lane in midair that fell behind the back of Kaskisuo.

When Kaskisuo left the net during a powerplay Guentzel extended the lead to 4-1 at 17:47 with his sixth of the season.

UMD’s Raskob snuck a goal in with 17 seconds left for the final margin.

Following the weekend, UNO is now 9-12-2 against UMD and 4-1-2 in the last seven meetings.

UMD head coach Scott Sandelin said despite the end result, his team played well at certain points during the series.

“There’s no moral victories,” Sandelin said. “But I liked a lot of things that we did.”

Guenztel, who scored two goals and had one assist on Saturday, now leads the NCHC in scoring with 16 points and is tied for the NCAA lead. He praised the resilience of UMD and how much the sweep means for UNO.

“They have a great team, one of the better teams in our league,” Guentzel said. That’s huge wins for us down the road, PairWise.”



Check out this Omaha Hockey photo slideshow by Gateway photographer Shannon Smith.