NCHC preview: Nebraska-Omaha
Last season, Mike Gabinet inherited a team that had gone .500 the previous season and a game over that mark in 2015-16.
Despite the coaching change, Nebraska-Omaha proved itself the master of consistent mediocrity, finishing 17-17-2 in 2017-18.
It’s been a tough follow-up to the Mavericks’ first-ever NCAA semifinal round berth in 2015, as none of their subsequent seasons have produced return trips onto college hockey’s highest stage.
The loss of assistant coach Peter Mannino to in-conference rival Miami, as well as the resulting departure of multiple recruits to the RedHawks this off-season will not make it any easier for UNO to qualify for the NCAAs in 2018-19.
NCAA titles: 0.
COACH: Mike Gabinet (17-17-2 in 1 season).
2017-18 RECORDS: 17-17-2 overall, 10-13-1 in the NCHC (6th place).
POSTSEASON: Lost to North Dakota in NCHC semifinal round.
RINK (capacity): Baxter Arena (7,898).
MIAMI VS. UNO LAST SEASON: 0-2.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Miami leads, 20-17-6.
2018-19 SCHEDULE VS. MIAMI: Nov. 2-3 – at UNO; Feb. 8-9 – at Miami.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: G Evan Weninger, F Zach Jordan, F Tristan Keck, F Steven Spinner, F Fredrik Olofsson, D Ryan Jones.
KEY LOSSES: F David Pope, F Tyler Vesel, F Jake Randolph, D Joel Messner.
KEY NEW FACES: F Tyler Weiss, F Chayse Primeau, F Taylor Ward, D John Schuldt.
NOTES: In addition to losing Mannino and two top-tier recruits, Nebraska-Omaha graduated four of its top five points producers from 2017-18.
Forward Zach Jordan is the team’s top returning points producer, as he posted 28 points including 16 goals last season.
Also up front, Tristan Keck, Fredrik Olofsson and Steven Spinner reached the 20-point mark in 2017-18.
Teemu Pulkinen netted eight goals and Mason Morelli dished for 10 assists.
The Mavericks expect 150-pounder Tyler Weiss to contribute immediately, as he is a USNDT product and Colorado Avalanche draftee. Same goes for 6-feet-3 Chayse Primeau, whose father Keith played in the NHL.
No returning UNO defenseman tallied more than two goals last season, and Ryan Jones is the Mavericks’ top returning points-getting among blueliners with 13.
D-man Lukas Buchta, Jalen Schulz and Dean Stewart are also back after turning in solid seasons for UNO in 2017-18.
Freshmen John Schuldt and Jason Smallidge look to make an immediate impact on the Mavericks’ blueline, but key defense commit Derek Dashcke bolted for Miami.
Goalie Evan Weninger is back after logging over 80 percent of UNO’s minutes between the pipes. His numbers weren’t great – his save percentage was .899 and goals-against 3.35 – and Philadelphia Flyers draftee and North Dakota transfer Matej Tomek could eat into Weninger’s ice time.
UNO needs serious improvement on the back end – the team was dead last in Division I in goals against per game and 49th on the penalty kill in 2017-18.
Conversely, the Mavericks finished seventh in goal average and were seventh on the power play.
Nebraska-Omaha’s tendency toward high-scoring affairs was exemplified by its series sweep vs. the RedHawks in Omaha that saw 25 goals including an 11-7 weekend opener.
That set extended UNO’s unbeaten streak vs. Miami to six games, as the Mavericks are 5-0-1 against the RedHawks the past two seasons.
NOTE: BoB is previewing each NCHC team leading into the 2018-19 season. This is the fourth of seven installments.
Here are the links for the other snapshots: