Nebraska Omaha isn’t about to invite Bemidji State back to the CenturyLink with open arms; BSU finds that life without Dan Bakala isn’t so bad after all; and Saturday’s game was one for the die-hards.
Bemidji State is borderline automatic when it comes to Omaha.
With a tie and a win, Bemidji State very much enjoyed its final WCHA regular season series at UNO. Good thing, too, because – barring a potential meeting in the playoffs – the Beavers aren’t likely to return to Omaha any time soon.
Following last week’s two-game set where the visitors picked up a 3-3 draw on Friday before winning Saturday’s rematch 3-2, Bemidji is now a staggering 6-0-2 in its last eight games at CenturyLink Center.
BSU head coach Tom Serratore said after his team’s win on Saturday that he hopes UNO and the Beavers can make scheduling deals to bring BSU back to Omaha for non-conference play after UNO leaves the WCHA at the end of this season.
Let’s be honest, though: UNO fans don’t want that, and neither, presumably, do many in Maverick hockey’s inner circle. Certainly not when Bemidji’s getting the kinds of spoils in Omaha that the Beavers have enjoyed the past few years, anyway.
UNO’s power play needs to shape up in a hurry.
After going 0-for-11 on the power play last weekend against the Beavers, UNO now possesses the 11th-worst power play unit in Division I.
The Mavericks are now 49th in the country in terms of playing with a numerical advantage, going 2-for-25 (eight percent even) on power play opportunities so far this season. Bemidji State (1-for-17) and Alaska Anchorage (1-for-19) are the only WCHA teams with worse numbers.
There is good news, however, in that UNO is about to play a Michigan Tech team whose penalty killing units are in the bottom half of the national table and are only clicking at a 77.4 percent rate (24-for-31).
That said, if UNO can’t flick the switch on the power play against the Huskies, Maverick fans will start wondering when their team finally will.
Anthony Stolarz had his first real off-night.
UNO’s highly-touted freshman goaltender was unlucky to come into his third start on Saturday with an 0-2 record from his first couple of appearances, but he isn’t blameless for the loss in his third outing as a Maverick.
Stolarz looked shaky throughout his 40 minutes of play on Saturday, giving up three goals on the 13 shots he faced, and none of Bemidji’s goals that night came at the ends of world-class finishes.
UNO head coach Dean Blais pulled Stolarz after the second period in favor of senior John Faulkner. Credit to Blais, because although UNO still ended up losing the game, Faulkner and the defense in front of him did manage to stop the bleeding.
Stolarz needs a chance to redeem himself, though, and chances are he’ll get a shot at that this weekend in Houghton, Mich. where UNO faces Michigan Tech on Friday and Saturday. I expect to see him take in yet another Saturday night start, with Faulkner in the cage for the series opener.
Stolarz will bounce back, and, not long removed from the 2011-12 season where Blais didn’t select one single goalie to ride until late in the season, there’s little reason to think he has his No. 1 this time around already.
The Mavericks ran into another hot goalie in green.
It has gotten to the point where it doesn’t really matter who starts in goal for Bemidji State. Whoever it is, it seems UNO can’t beat him.
Sophomore goaltender Andrew Walsh picked up where ex-BSU goalie Dan Bakala left off in the Beaver cages against UNO. Walsh stole a point for BSU in Friday’s 3-3 tie by making 39 saves, and he stopped another 25 shots the following night in a 3-2 win.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that everyone should have seen Walsh’s performances coming. He was obscenely good the week before at home against Lake Superior State, stopping all but one of the 64 shots that he faced against the Lakers.
It’s too early to call Walsh the WCHA’s goaltender of the year, but if he can keep up his current form long enough, he will absolutely be in the conversation by the time the awards are doled out.
UNO hockey found out who its best fans are on Saturday.
UNO hockey going up against Nebraska football isn’t really new as a thing, but it’s rare that the Mavericks go up directly against both Husker football and a legitimate major national sporting event.
Nebraska welcomed Michigan to Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, and between that game and Game 3 of the World Series in Detroit going on at the same time, UNO’s series conclusion against Bemidji State was never going to be a hot ticket.
An announced crowd of 3,921 made its way into the CenturyLink for Saturday’s hockey game. Surely the Mavericks won’t have a smaller home attendance at any point the rest of this season.
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND
“We know what they do; it’s just hard to play against them,”
–Blais very succinctly airs his frustrations concerning UNO’s results against Bemidji State.
HERE’S MY NUMBER, SO STAT ME MAYBE
Some other notable figures to mull over from the Bemidji State series:
- 5: There was a point in Saturday’s third period where neither team seemed to want to play a full two minutes five-on-four, but it hurt UNO more in the end than it hurt Bemidji. Five of the Mavericks’ power plays on the night ended early because of penalties UNO players took while playing with a numerical advantage.
- 16: The Beavers are 16-31-5 since the beginning of the 2010-11 season against all opponents save for UNO. Against the Mavericks in that time frame, BSU is 7-1-4. Five of those wins and three of those ties came in Omaha.