By Brian Brashaw
After two weeks of captains’ practice, the Maverick hockey team officially hits the practice ice today.
The Mavericks are eager to get out and show what they have been working on in the offseason. For UNO, its been a mostly transitional period.
Two new coaches arrived and began to get accustomed with the system and the recruits showed up ready to learn. This year’s squad is young, but with the leadership co-captains Greg Zanon and David Brisson bring, the transition should be smooth.
“I think we’re all kind of anxious,” Head Coach Mike Kemp said at Wednesday’s Central Collegiate Hockey Association media day. “It will be the youngest team that we fielded at UNO since our inaugural season of 1997-98. We’ll have 10 freshmen to start the season. It will be an interesting test for us early to see who fits in where and who’s going to pick up the slack.”
Aaron Smith and Scotty Turner represent the walking wounded portion of the team as the two attempt to return from knee ligament surgeries in the offseason.
Gus Groslie is also on the wounded chart for now. Groslie suffered a concussion last season and its effects still linger. His situation will be re-evaluated in mid-October but he may not play until November.
Still, with all these factors, UNO is hoping to improve on last season’s fifth-place finish and early ousting from CCHA playoffs at the hands of Notre Dame.
The main factor now is how to replace career scoring leader Jeff Hoggan, who departed for the NHL. No one person can fill those skates but Brisson, Smith and Turner along with Andrew Wong should carry much of the load for the Mavericks.
Dan Ellis will be the backbone of the team.
Among the blue-chip blue liners are Mike Lefley and David Morelli. Lefley comes to UNO as last year’s Alberta Junior Hockey League MVP who scored 85 goals and had 85 assists in three seasons. Glenn Fugate of hockey’sfuture.com commented on Morelli: “He can pass, skate, shoot and for all I know, he can drop the mitts too. Dave plays center and has a bright future ahead of him. I am impressed every time I see this player play.”
UNO opens the season with its annual exhibition against the University of Manitoba on Oct. 6. UNO won the game held at Kearney’s Tri-City Arena last year 6-1. The Mavericks then host the Maverick Stampede Oct. 11 and 12.