Mavericks series vs. Denver postponed; Mask Mandate back at Baxter

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Jordan McAlpine
SPORTS EDITOR

The Omaha hockey team had its series against No. 7 Denver postponed this weekend. Photo taken by Stephanie Veloso.

The No.15 Omaha hockey team saw its weekend series against No. 7 Denver postponed Tuesday afternoon due to COVID-19 protocols within the Omaha program. The two teams will now meet at Baxter Arena on Feb. 4 and 5 and both rescheduled games are set for 7:07 p.m.

The Mavericks opened the second half last weekend at St. Lawrence and came out of Upstate New York with a split. Omaha held a 2-0 lead early in the third period of game one, but the Mavericks gave up three unanswered goals late and fell 3-2. Despite the disappointing loss in the Mavericks’ first game since Dec. 11, Omaha responded on Saturday with a 5-0 win.

However, concerns started to arise Sunday night once the Mavericks got back to Omaha. Those concerns carried into Monday and a postponement or cancelation seemed inevitable Monday night. Omaha’s weekly press conference was canceled at the last minute Tuesday morning and the announcement of the postponement followed shortly thereafter.

It’s the second straight season the Mavericks have had their first NCHC series of the second half postponed due to COVID-19 issues. A COVID outbreak within the program pushed Omaha’s early-January series at North Dakota to late February last season. Coincidentally, Omaha’s next scheduled games are now at North Dakota on Jan. 14-15.

It’s unknown exactly how many positive cases there are around the program right now, but a source tells The Gateway a “decent amount” of the roster and staff currently are or were impacted by COVID-19. The Pioneers had previously dealt with COVID issues of their own too, as talented forward Carter Savoie was forced to miss DU’s last series against Alaska.

However, it’s not the only NCHC series that has been postponed this weekend. St. Cloud was set to host Minnesota Duluth at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, but that series was also postponed Wednesday afternoon due to COVID-19 protocols within the Minnesota Duluth program.

Luckily for the Mavericks and Pioneers, the two teams shared an open weekend (Feb. 4-5), leading to the games being rescheduled right away. However, that’s not the case for the Huskies and Bulldogs, as no make-up date has been set. The two teams don’t share a bye week the rest of the season either and there is a chance the two games could be ruled a no contest and not made up.

Especially with the current trends and spike in positive cases around the country, it’s a legitimate concern down the stretch in the second half as more games will inevitably be impacted by COVID-19. In the situation that games can’t be made up, the NCHC standings will be based on points per game at the end of the regular season instead of total points.

That’s exactly what happened last season as Denver and Colorado College were unable to make up a two-game series, leaving them with just 22 games played compared to the rest of the league’s 24.

Another unfortunate wrinkle of this weekend’s Omaha/Denver series being postponed comes on the TV side as Friday’s game was set to be broadcasted nationally on CBS Sports Network. St. Cloud State and Western Michigan are scheduled to be the network’s featured game on Feb. 4, but that series could also be shifted in the schedule domino effect that is likely to happen.

With SCSU and UMD also being postponed, the NCHC’s lone series on the docket this weekend is Colorado College at Miami. The league is currently still investigating their options to replace the game this Friday night and has also already begun looking at the possibility of further shifting the broadcast schedule around in the second half.

In that case, there’s still a chance the Mavericks will have a game at Baxter Arena televised nationally this season, including the possibility of the rescheduled game against Denver. Omaha’s games at Colorado College on Jan. 28 and at Miami on Feb. 11 will also be televised on CBS Sports Network based on the current schedule.

Masks back at Baxter

In addition to this weekend’s series being postponed, Omaha Athletics and Baxter Arena announced Wednesday afternoon that fans will once again be required to wear masks upon entry into the arena. The change is effective immediately and will be in place for all home athletic events until further notice.

A mask mandate had been in place at the start of this hockey season; However, that was lifted prior to the Nov. 5 game against Miami.

Additionally, all tickets that were issued for this weekend’s games will be honored for the rescheduled games on Feb. 4 or 5. For further information or questions, visit the Baxter Arena box office or Omavs.com.

Around the NCHC

As mentioned, the only series left on the schedule for this weekend will be in Oxford between Miami and Colorado College. Here are the updated NCHC standings:

No. 5 North Dakota  24 PTS / 10 GP / 8-2-0

No. 3 Western Michigan 18 PTS / 10 GP / 6-4-0

No. 7 Denver 15 PTS / 8 GP / 5-3-0

No. 8 Minnesota Duluth 14 PTS / 8 GP / 4-3-1

No. 4 St. Cloud State 12 PTS / 8 GP / 4-4-0

No. 15 Omaha 11 PTS / 8 GP / 4-4-0

Colorado College 5 PTS / 8 GP / 1-6-1

Miami 3 PTS / 8 GP / 1-7-0

*All rankings according to the most recent Jan. 3 poll from USCHO.com.

News and notes

  • Omaha goaltender Isaiah Saville was named the NCHC Co-Goaltender of the Week Monday afternoon along with Western Michigan’s Brandon Bussi. Saville made 21 saves and picked up his fourth shutout of the season in the win at St. Lawrence. It’s already his fifth weekly honor of the season.
  • The NCHC is not alone as several games around the country this weekend have been postponed. Series involving Ohio State at Wisconsin, Clarkson at Canisius, Bentley and UMass-Lowell, and multiple teams out of the ECAC (Dartmouth, Union, St. Lawrence and Harvard) all have been impacted by COVID-19 so far.
  • On Omaha’s campus alone, hockey hasn’t been the only sport impacted. Women’s and men’s basketball have both seen cancelations and postponements due to COVID-19.

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