My choice for 8th place in the CCHA is Nebraska-Omaha.
Projected Depth Chart:
LW Scott Parse C Bryan Marshall RW Tomas Klempa
LW Brandon Scero C Alex Nikiforuk RW Kaleb Betts
LW Dan Charleston C Jeric Agosta RW Adam Bartholmay
LW Chris Wilson C J.P. Platisha RW Nick Fanto
LD Dan Knapp RD Mike Eickman G Jerad Kaufmann
LD Eddie Del Grosso RD Phil Angell G Jeremie Dupont
LD Juha Uotila RD Mark Bernier
Last year was a historic year for the Mavericks, as they made their first trip to the NCAA tournament, which ended with a disappointing 9-2 loss to Boston University. The Mavericks only lost three regulars from last year’s lineup, though the most notable was the team’s second leading scorer, Bill Thomas, who signed a free agent contract with the Phoenix Coyotes. This year’s team should be very similar to last year’s team, in that they should score a lot of goals, but also have difficulty keeping the puck out of their own net.
Hobey Baker candidate Scott Parse seems likely to return for his senior season, which is a huge boost for the Mavericks. Parse lost linemate Bill Thomas, but should still be able to score in the 50+ point range. Parse has a talented supporting cast as well, including the underrated Bryan Marshall, who has quietly score 71 points in his first 79 games.
Defense, and specifically goaltending was a big problem for the Mavericks last season. Their 3.54 goals scored per game(2nd best in the CCHA) was nearly cancelled out by the 3.21 goals allowed per game(10th in the CCHA). Part of the reason of the poor defensive statistics was the late departure of goalie Chris Holt last season, forcing the Mavericks to start the true freshmen combo of Jerad Kaufmann and Greg Barrett. Kaufmann emerged as the starter, but was 10th in the CCHA in goals against average and 12th in save percentage. Kaufmann will compete for the starting job with freshmen Jeremie Dupont this season. Dupont was a highly-regarded recruit, but won’t turn 18 until December, and may not be ready to handle the full-time starting duty.
How will Scott Parse perform without linemate Bill Thomas? Will Jeremie Dupont be able to win the starting goaltender job?
Key Player: Alex Nikiforuk. Nikiforuk got off to a rough start at Omaha, but has since turned his career around and matured into a talented veteran player. He is one of the best candidates to help fill Bill Thomas’ role as the team’s best goal scorer.
Breakthrough Player: Brandon Scero. Scero has scored 23 points in each of his first two seasons for Omaha, and now that he’s an upperclassmen, will likely improve on those numbers.
Bellwether: Omaha was 0-7-1 in games where Scott Parse didn’t score a point last season, including the last three games of the season, when Parse was bothered by a shoulder injury. If Parse is healthy and scoring every game, that should give the Mavericks the boost they need to be successful.
Did You Know?
If history is any indication, the Mavericks should be relocating soon. President Gerald Ford, Malcolm X, and the Mormons all lived in Omaha briefly during their infancy before moving away from the city.
Oscar-winning Filmmaker Alexander Payne is an Omaha-native and often shoots parts of his movies in the city of Omaha. In the 2002 film About Schmidt, there is a brief shot of a television showing a Nebraska-Omaha hockey game.
Cartoon badass Brock Samson is also a native of Omaha.
If You Go There:
You Have to Eat: STEAKS! Steaks grow on trees in Omaha, so you shouldn't much trouble finding a good one.
You Have to Visit: The Henry Doorly Zoo. It’s known as one of the premier zoos in the entire world.