With apologies to the upcoming Beanpot battle between #2 Boston University and #4 Harvard this coming Monday, there's little question the the biggest games in college this week will be taking place in Omaha, when #1 North Dakota takes on #5 Nebraska-Omaha.
Who: #1 North Dakota vs. #5 5
Where: CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE
When: Friday at 7:37 CST, Saturday at 7:07 CST
Television: Friday night on CBS Sports Network
This is the second meeting of the season between these two teams. When they met over Thanksgiving, in Grand Forks, the two teams tied on Friday night, with Omaha taking the bonus league point in the shootout--that extra point is all that separates the two teams for first place in the NCHC right now--and North Dakota winning the second half of the series.
But this time, home ice advantage goes to the Mavericks. This is being billed as the most important series of the season in Omaha, if not in the program's history. UNO fans will be attempting a 'Blackout,' which should be lovely for the goalies(and would make a perfect time for North Dakota to break out their black jerseys). For all the success North Dakota has had this season, they're fairly untested on the road. A single series at Denver, which they split, is the only quality team they've played on the road so far this season.
Omaha, meanwhile, leads the NCHC and currently sits in position for a one seed in the NCAA tournament. But questions about the sustainability of their success still remain. They're winning, and that's all that matters, but they continue be badly outshot in many of those wins. They've given 110 more shots on goal than their opponents. Even in last week's 4-1 win over lowly Colorado College, the Mavericks were outshot 28-14. But thanks to an excellent shooting percentage--11.7%, tied for third in the country--and strong goal tending, they've been able to make it work. But will that strategy hold up against an offense as powerful as North Dakota's?
This should be a fantastic series with a lot on the line for both teams, and should produce some very entertaining hockey. A sweep one way or the other puts the winning team in prime position for the NCHC conference title as we head into the home stretch of the season.