Following their most successful season in school history, which featured a trip to the Frozen Four, Omaha looks to steal a couple wins in this huge series with Minnesota State.
Meanwhile, Minnesota State is a team looking to prove to the world of college hockey that they aren’t the same team that lost to 16 seed RIT in the NCAA playoffs last year as a 1 seed. This 10 vs. 6 matchup is arguably the best series we’ll see to start the 2015-2016 season.
Once again, Omaha features one of the youngest rosters in the NCHC after adding 10 freshman this year and only carrying three seniors.
However, the team possesses deep playoff experience and doesn’t shy away from the big stage. This year’s roster features nine players drafted by NHL teams, a program record.
That said, UNO will have a difficult test coming onto MSU’s home ice. MSU is 31-3-2 at home in their last two seasons and are helped by the average attendance of 3,980—over 80 percent capacity of their home arena.
MSU is led by a troop of veterans as they return 18 letterwinners and lose seven this year. The key for Omaha will be to lock down, or at least limit production from one of these vets, forward Bryce Gervais, whose 27 goals ranked second in the nation last year.
Gervais has not missed a game in his MSU career, playing in 122 consecutive. Omaha defenseman Brian Cooper has played against Gervais for three years now and will be a key piece in curbing Gervais’ scoring chances.
Gervais will be taking shots at a different Omaha goalkeeper this year, with standout goalie Ryan Massa graduating last year. Junior Kirk Thompsen will likely be Omaha’s starting goalie this weekend. Thompsen earned his first win last season in a 27 save performance at Ohio State.
This year MSU’s game plan has to include a strategy to prevent Omaha’s Austin Ortega, who averaged 3.69 shots per game last year, from getting the puck in open ice. The junior from California had an assist and scored the game-winning goal against when the two teams met last year.
MSU defensemen Casen Nelson and Carter Forguth saw action in all 40 games last year and will look to safeguard veteran goalie Cole Huggins from Ortega and the Omaha offense.