No. 10 Mavericks look to carry strong start into NCHC play

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Jordan McAlpine
SPORTS EDITOR

Brandon Scanlin has been Omaha’s best defenseman through 14 games and leads the team with 13 assists. “I see very big things for this team,” Scanlin said. Photo courtesy of Omaha Athletics.

The Omaha hockey team is off to one of the best starts in program history, as the Mavericks sit at 11-3-0 and are ranked inside the top 10 nationally.

“It’s just a testament of who we are as a team,” said fifth-year forward Brannon McManus. “It’s not surprising though. The sky’s the limit right now and we think we can be even better, and we know it. Our work ethic here is unreal too, so I’m looking forward to where we go from here.”

After dropping the season opener in overtime, the Mavericks responded by rattling off seven straight before a disappointing conference loss against Miami, 4-3. That streak was one win shy of matching the school record that was set during the 2001-02 season.

However, that Miami loss provided some early season adversity. The Mavericks responded the next night to improve to 8-2-0 and grabbed a 3-2 overtime win at then-No. 1 St. Cloud State the following weekend. Fresh off that split at St. Cloud State, the Mavericks traveled to Fairbanks and swept Alaska for wins No. 10 and 11.

A team that’s been hampered by injuries as of late, including starting goaltender Isaiah Saville, Preseason All-Conference selection Chayse Primeau, Matt Miller, Martin Sundberg, Jonny Tychonick and others, the Mavericks rode those two Alaska wins into a bye. The time off provided a chance to recover, recharge and gear up for the stretch ahead.

“I think it was a good refresh for a lot of the guys,” said junior defenseman Brandon Scanlin. “Just got our minds away from the game for a couple days and (now) come back focused and sharp. Just looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Omaha will host Colorado College at home out of the bye and then travel to Western Michigan, currently the No. 6 team in the nation. After that, it’s a trip to St. Lawrence to open the new year and then 18 straight against NCHC foes. Six of the eight teams in the conference are ranked inside the top 12 nationally, and Miami and Colorado College are no slouch either.

A big part of the early-season success has been the Omaha power play, which has scored the most power play goals in the country (22) and owns the nation’s fifth-best success rate at 28.9%. The Mavericks are one of three teams in the country, along with Providence and Michigan Tech, that rank in the top 10 nationally in both power-play and penalty-kill percentage (88.7%).

Along with the team’s success, a few individual Mavericks have gotten off to a hot start as well. Taylor Ward sits third in the nation in goals (12), seventh in points (21) and leads the NCAA in power-play goals with nine. He was named the October NCHC Player of the Month and Hockey Commissioners Associated National Player of the Month.

Freshman Cameron Berg is second on the team with six goals. Saville has been the NCHC Goaltender of the Week three times already this season. Scanlin also tied for eighth in the country with 13 assists. And with so many injuries, there’s been a next-man-up theme all season. The Mavericks are still finding a way to get it done.

“I see very big things for this team,” Scanlin said. “We’ve shown it while we’re injured and everybody steps in and can compete at the highest level. We have awesome talent on this team, we work super hard and we just keep growing every week. That’s the one thing that’s awesome about this team.”

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