Absence may indeed make the heart grow fonder, but don’t expect a love-in when former league rivals Nebraska Omaha and Northern Michigan meet this weekend.
UNO (1-1-0) and No. 17 NMU (2-0-0) used to be rivals in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association before the Mavericks moved to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association ahead of the 2010-11 season.
The two teams have split their 32-game all-time series down the middle up until now. Going into this weekend’s two-game set, the series is tied at 15-15-2, although UNO holds a 11-4-0 advantage in games against the Wildcats in Omaha.
This weekend’s series isn’t just noteworthy because two old rivals are getting together, though. It promises to be an entertaining pair of games between two clubs that are entering the series on high notes.
UNO blew Army out 5-1 before dropping a close 3-2 game to Notre Dame last week at the Icebreaker tournament in Kansas City, Mo. NMU arguably had the better weekend, however, sweeping Wisconsin in two neutral-site games in Green Bay, Wis.
The Wildcats were led up front against the Badgers by senior Matt Thurber and freshman Cohen Adair. Adair scored NMU’s game-winner in a 2-1 triumph over UW on Oct. 12, and both he and Thurber scored in the Wildcats’ 4-2 win the following night.
Junior goaltender Jared Coreau backstopped the Wildcats to both of their wins over the Badgers last weekend. Coreau made 37 saves over the two games while only conceding three goals over 120 minutes.
UNO has been led so far this season mainly by upperclassmen. Senior defenseman Bryce Aneloski tops the Mavericks’ scoring chart after two games with a goal and two assists, and junior forward Brock Montpetit contributed three assists of his own last weekend in Kansas City.
UNO’s second line of Montpetit, Zahn Raubehimer and Dominic Zombo shined brightest at the Icebreaker. They contributed to UNO’s first three goals in the 5-1 win over Army and were also on the ice for defenseman Michael Young’s goal against Notre Dame in the tournament final.
It appears, however, that UNO head coach Dean Blais will be breaking that line up for now. He told the Omaha World-Herald Thursday that Montpetit will joining the Mavericks’ top line, acting as a center between junior wingers Matt White and Ryan Walters.
Senior John Faulkner and freshman Anthony Stolarz both saw time in the UNO net last weekend. Faulkner picked up the Mavericks’ first win over the season in the 5-1 rout of Army on Oct. 12, and Stolarz recovered well from a shaky start the following night in the 3-2 loss to Notre Dame.
The NMU series will be UNO’s last non-conference set until Thanksgiving. UNO welcomes WCHA rival Bemidji State next weekend in the second half of a four-game homestand.