The Maverick hockey team is climbing the rankings this season and is currently ranking No. 19 in the country in the USCHO.com poll.
The team recently swept Colorado College on Jan. 14 and 15. The games were a huge victory for the team, who have struggled to win Friday night games this season.
Tyler Vesel, a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and center for the Maverick hockey team mentioned that the recent sweep was a big step going forward for the team.
“We’ve never swept Colorado in Colorado, and we’ve never won on Friday night, so last weekend we won on Friday night and Saturday night,” Vesel said. “We flipped the switch.”
Dean Blais, UNO’s head coach, said the team has improved upon their individual skills throughout the course of practice and games. They also have adapted well to new strategies. Each team they play has different offensive and defensive strategies, so every game the team has to figure out how to defend their goal and get past the opposing teams’ offense.
“The guys are good, smart students,” Blais said. “There’s a correlation between academics and what we’re doing. This team has adapted better than any team I’ve coached here as far as situational adjustments.”
Blais mentioned what really sets the UNO hockey team apart is their mental preparation.
“I think their mental preparation for every game helps them succeed,” Blais said. “Most of the time though, those 27 players are on and they know what to expect, and they prepare mentally for their opponent. That’s the best thing about this team. They’re coming on to shoot. They are coming onto the ice knowing how to play, and executing that well.”
Vesel said that the team’s consistency helped them win in Colorado. He said the team’s experience and passion for the game also contributed to their victory.
Like many of his teammates, Vesel has been playing hockey since his childhood. He noted that playing hockey for UNO has improved his time as a student.
“It makes it a lot easier to adjust to the college life,” Vesel said. “The normal student comes in not knowing a lot of people. So, coming in and having 25 other guys doing the same thing you’re doing makes you feel more comfortable.”
Vesel said what he enjoys most about playing hockey for the Mavericks are the people who cheer the team on. He loves making fans proud.
Though he knows UNO fans will give the team constant support, he is worried the upcoming games will be more challenging. On Friday and Saturday, the Mavericks will face the No. 2 ranked Denver hockey team.
“After this weekend we don’t play a team that’s ranked below 12. We’ve got a lot of tough games coming up, and we have to win at least half of them to make the NCAA tournament,” Vesel said. “It’s a tough stretch at the end. We have to play fast. Every team in our league is fast. We need to play consistent, keep pucks out of our net, take chances, and score when we can.”
The team tied the first game and won the second. Blais said the team applied the strategies they’ve learned during the season against the RedHawks in order to win.
“We have to use speed and discipline. The best discipline in hockey is self-discipline, not taking unnecessary penalties,” Blais said. “The strat-egy will be beat Miami with speed, beat Miami with discipline.”