It was quite the season for an Omaha team that put together a 14-11-1 record, which was their most conference wins since they joined the NCHC, and reached the fourth NCAA Tournament in program history. However, that tournament run was short-lived, as the Mavericks fell to Minnesota in the Loveland Regional, 7-2.
“I think the program took a huge step and to accomplish what we did during the regular season to put ourselves in this position,” said head coach Mike Gabinet. “Proud of the group. We didn’t stop playing the whole game, we kept fighting, which is the characteristic of this group we have.”
After being knocked out of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff by Denver, the Mavericks were selected as the fourth and final NCHC team in the NCAA Tournament. They entered the Loveland Regional as the fourth seed.
As for their opponent, the Gophers made it clear why they came in as the No. 2 team in the country and were regarded as one of the most talented teams throughout the regular season. Minnesota grabbed a 1-0 lead 5:48 into the first period for their first of three goals in the period and never looked back. The Gophers added three more in the second and one in the third.
“Obviously not the result we wanted and this time of year you’re not looking for moral victories, but at the end of the day we’ve got to learn from it,” said head coach Mike Gabinet. “I don’t think it was a 7-2 game, I liked parts of our game, but they made us pay for every mistake.
“Every mistake we made was in the back of our net. We have to get better individually and collectively and learn from this.”
Learn from it indeed. For a young Omaha roster that featured six freshmen and 12 sophomores this season, the hope is they’ll return to this stage next season. At the same time, now they know the standard they’ll need to play at.
“It shows the standard that you’ve got to get to,” Gabinet said. “As I talked about after the game, that’s individually too. Our individuals have to get better to compete at this level and we’ve got to get better as a team as well. When you face a team like this that’s the standard that you need to beat to keep moving on in the tournament.”
Taylor Ward netted both goals in the loss for Omaha, but besides that, the Mavericks couldn’t get much going. It just came down to capitalizing on chances, which was the story of the night.
With the loss, the Mavericks won’t hit the ice again until the fall. The Gophers went on to lose to Minnesota State the following night, who will join St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth and Massachusetts in the Frozen Four.
As for Omaha, it’d be hard not to consider this season a success. There’s been a lot of growth this season, but there’s still work to be done. Now the work begins to return to this stage next spring.
“It’s a big step for the Omaha program,” said senior defenseman Nate Knoepke. “We haven’t been to the tournament in a few years and I think now we kind of know the standard that we need to play at come tournament time. Any mistake can cost us, so we’ve got to learn from it and try again next year.”