Catching up with the captain: A look at the second half with senior captain Kevin Conley


Jordan McAlpine

Kevin Conley has scored six goals and has 12 points in 15 games played this season. His latest two being game-winners against Denver and North Dakota. Photo taken by AJ Olnes/Omaha Athletics.

Back before the season started in early December, Omaha senior captain Kevin Conley knew there was a good chance his team would face some adversity along the way. After playing the first 10 games of the season seamlessly in the Pod, that adversity was put to the test. The Mavericks had their first three series of the second half postponed due to COVID-19 cases within the program.

“It was a little frustrating, but you really can’t do much about it,” Conley said. “It was almost more so a mental test than physical at times, but again you can only control what you can control. Everyone did a good job of following the protocols and doing their part to stay healthy, but it was nice to get back on the ice and play again.”

In the weeks that have followed, the Mavericks have climbed into the top-10 for the first time since January of 2016. They knocked off Denver, the school where Conley played his freshman season, for the first time since Jan. 10, 2015. The former Pioneer even scored the game-winner in that 5-2 victory on Sunday, Jan. 24, which snapped a 19-game winless streak against DU.

One week later, Omaha earned a split with No. 2 North Dakota. Once again, Conley netted the game-winner in game two with a power play goal late in the third period. They’re right in the thick of a heated race for the top four spots in the NCHC standings, which will qualify for home ice in the opening round of the NCHC playoffs.

Through 16 games, Omaha is 10-5-1. The Mavericks sit in fourth place with 30 points, which is just three behind Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State, and eight behind league-leading North Dakota. However, the Mavericks have played one fewer game than both UMD and SCSU, and two fewer than UND. Omaha is also nine points ahead of fifth-place Denver.

“We’re definitely proud of where we’re at in the standings and our main goal is to finish in the top-half of the NCHC,” Conley said. “It’s an elite league that I think is up for grabs, so we want to take advantage of that and win as many games as possible.”

Although there’s still uncertainty of what the conference tournament will look like and where it will be held, it doesn’t change the goal of that top-4 finish. Omaha has only hosted the opening round twice since they joined the NCHC for the 2013-14 season, losing both series.

As cliche as it sounds, the message in the locker room truly is to just keep taking it one day at a time. That all starts with the leadership group and the man wearing the ‘C’ this season.

“I think it’s important that everyone knows it’s not going to be the easiest schedule and it can change, and that’s fine,” Conley said. “We try not to pay much attention to the rankings and look too far ahead, and we just need to focus one game at a time.”

It won’t be an easy stretch by any means, but with eight games left and 24 potential points to be had, Conley and the group want to make the most of them.

“We want to take advantage of every game we get to play in the second half,” Conley said. ”We know how well we can play, we’ve shown what we can do so far, and this group is a focused group. We’re going to have to execute that during the rest of the second half to be successful.”