Mavericks get off to strong start and crack the top 10 in both polls


Jordan McAlpine

Taylor Ward (right) and Chayse Primeau (left) are first and second on the team with 16 and nine points respectively through eight games. Ward also leads the Mavericks with 10 goals. Photo taken by Stephanie Veloso/The Gateway.

The Omaha hockey team is off to the program’s best start since the 2012-13 season. At 7-1-0, the Mavericks have won seven straight and haven’t even gotten into conference play yet. The fast start has led to some national recognition, as Omaha is ranked in the top 10 in both major polls.

“It’s where somebody has us pegged, but I think it’s also a tremendous accomplishment to show we’re in the top 10 in the country,” said Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet. “Being ranked any week is a big deal and there aren’t too many teams that are ranked.”

Gabinet’s team came into this season ranked No. 17 in the country and Omaha was picked to finish fifth in the NCHC Preseason Poll. After splitting a season-opening series with Lake Superior State and sweeping Maine, Omaha moved up four spots to No. 13 in the USCHO poll.

The Mavericks moved up another two spots to No. 11 after a second consecutive sweep, this one coming against Alaska. After a bye week, Omaha went into their most recent series against Long Island University as a top-10 team and picked up their third straight sweep. The Mavericks currently sit at No. 10 in the USCHO poll and were tabbed No. 9 by the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine rankings.

“It’s always nice to see that we’re getting recognized for the hard work we’re putting in and definitely being in the top 10 is an honor and something we don’t take lightly,” said junior goaltender Isaiah Saville.

Saville, who has been a major part of the early success, said the group is gaining confidence, but they can’t get complacent. The big key is sticking to their identity and continuing to put the work in. The players in front of him agree, but it’s also rewarding to get that national recognition.

“It’s super exciting to be in the top 10 and be recognized nationally,” said senior center Chayse Primeau. “We’re going to keep putting in the work and hopefully keep climbing.”

On top of Omaha’s strong start, the NCHC as a whole has seen a lot of early-season success and is well-represented nationally. Both polls are littered with teams from the conference. Six of the top 13 teams in the USCHO poll and six of the top 12 spots in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll are occupied by NCHC teams with one week left before the first weekend of conference play.

“That’s pretty impressive what our conference is doing,” Gabinet said. “There’s not too many conferences where six out of the eight teams are ranked. It’s not surprising from my standpoint because I just know how good the teams are, but I think it’s a great thing to share.”

It’s cliche, but it’s a testament that anything can happen on any given night in the NCHC. Even with their success last season and the top-four finish, everyone inside the Omaha program knows it’s a new challenge and these rankings are just another sign it won’t be easy. The Mavericks open conference play against Miami on Nov. 5 and 6.

“By no means are we satisfied,” Gabinet said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of areas that we’ve got to be better at, but it is nice to recognize what they’ve achieved so far.”