Nebraska-Omaha is making their first ever appearance in the Frozen Four when they face off against Providence at 5:00pm EST on Thursday afternoon in a game that will be televised by ESPN. Here are three keys for the Mavericks to win their first game at the Frozen Four against the Friars.
1. Ryan Massa. Despite whatever narratives people try to attach to Omaha's regional victory, the Mavericks are in Boston for one reason and one reason only: the play of goalie Ryan Massa. The Mavericks gave up an average of 37 shots per game in the regional--one could argue the 34 vs. Harvard was due to the score effects of UNO taking a 2-0 lead after one period, but they were flat outplayed in giving up 40 to RIT--but Massa was outstanding, allowing only a single goal on 74 shots. Massa has carried his team in similar fashion throughout the season, and will likely need two more performances of that caliber if Omaha hopes to win the title.
2. Don't Be Intimidated by the Big Stage. It's a big deal that the Mavericks are making their first Frozen Four appearance. With a young team making their first appearance on a stage this large, it would be easy for the Mavericks to get off to a slow start. But it could be game over if they find themselves in an early hole. The team that scores first in the NCAA Tournament wins about 75% of the time, and the first team to score two goals has an even better winning percentage than that. If they can survive the first period, they'll be in much better shape.
3. Attack in Transition. The Mavericks may spend a little more time in their own zone, but they're very dangerous attacking on the rush. Add in that they're facing a very sound, disciplined defense in Providence and their best opportunities to score might come before that defense has a chance to get set up. Top line center Jake Guentzel does a great job of spreading out the ice in those situations, which helps create space for speedy winger Austin Ortega to make plays.