Maverick Stampede Preview
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Nebraska-Omaha joins the WCHA this season but before the WCHA regular season begins, the Mavericks host the Maverick Stampede this weekend, welcoming Clarkson, St. Cloud State, and RIT to Omaha. Each WCHA team will play RIT and Clarkson during the course of the weekend.
The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks are looking to tune up for their first season in their new league — a daunting challenge when playing the likes of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the list goes on, night in and night out.
"Players know [in] the WCHA there's six of the top 15 [teams] in the country," coach Dean Blais told the Nebraska-Omaha Gateway. "We're not one of 'em, and we were a good team last year. Every year you've got a new cast, and its 'Can these guys have the same success as last year's guys in the second half? Can they be better at the start?' We know that we need more character and harder workers and more courage on the road right away."
Clarkson, meanwhile, is looking to right the ship before the ECAC season gets underway. Traditionally a powerhouse, the Golden Knights have faltered in each of the last two seasons. Coach George Roll is looking for signs of change this weekend in Omaha.
"I would say we are looking for a consistent effort throughout the weekend," said Roll. "We need to compete at a high level for 60 minutes both nights. We need to play with discipline and keep the game simple.
"With little time to prepare it is difficult to know what out team strengths are. We have a solid D corps with a good mix of offensive and defensive D men."
St. Cloud and RIT face off on Friday night in a matchup of two NCAA tournament teams from last season. RIT, of course, advanced all the way to the Frozen Four after then-senior goaltender Jared DeMichiel backstopped the team to an impressive run through the Atlantic Hockey tournament, followed by NCAA tourney wins over Denver and New Hampshire.
The question for the Tigers centers around the void created by DeMichiel's departure.
"In goal, we are unproven but have a lot of potential," said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. "I really like our forwards. We return almost all of our forwards from last year. Our defense will be young as we don't have any seniors and may play with as many as three freshmen in our lineup. [This weekend], we will be watching to see where we are in terms of conditioning, systems, and more importantly, our team chemistry."
St. Cloud's season last year ended with a Frozen Four trip on the line against Wisconsin. This year, with the graduation of all-time Huskies leading scorer Ryan Lasch, coach Bob Motzko will rely on Garrett Roe to lead another strong team.
The WCHA coaches picked St. Cloud to finish second in the league behind North Dakota.
Said Motzko, "Our strength this year is our depth at all three positions. We may not have the star power, but we have a roster that has enough skill and determination to compete for playing time and push each other to improve."