By Brian Brashaw
A split with Western Michigan in Omaha this weekend did the UNO hockey team little good in their quest for rising in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings. The Mavericks remained in fourth place but did close the gap on Alaska-Fairbanks to one point.
There is a lot at stake considering this is UNO’s last conference series of the season. The four possible points that will exchange this weekend between these two teams will determine where they stand at the end of the season. Three other teams are chasing UNO (29 pts) and Alaska-Fairbanks (30 pts). Northern Michigan (28 pts), Ohio State (26 pts), and Western Michigan (25 pts) are all close and all three of those teams have four games left with eight points on the line, which could mean while UNO and Fairbanks are playing non-conference games next weekend, they could lose ground in the CCHA. There is potential for both teams to finish anywhere between third and seventh. The top six teams host first-round playoff games.
Fairbanks has not been a friendly place for UNO. The Mavericks are 0-4-2 in the upper north.
Alaska-Fairbanks has turned their season around from last season. Fairbanks will most likely earn a home playoff series this year, meaning a top-six finish, worst-case scenario. They could, however, remain in third with a good showing against UNO. The Nanooks finished tied for ninth with only 21 points. They opened the playoffs by going to Michigan State, and fell in three games.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky has re-ignited his team to their best season since joining the CCHA. For the first time the Nanooks beat both Michigan and Michigan State in the same season.
Fairbanks is coming off a bye week and have a four-game winning streak going. One win guarantees home ice for them, which would be a school first. Sophomore Ryan Campbell leads the Nanook offense with 14 goals and 18 assists. Bobby Andrews and Cam Keith each have 29 points for Fairbanks.
Goalies Preston McKay and Lance Mayes have been sharing time in net. Mayes is 7-4-1, while McKay posts a 11-6-1 record.
For UNO, Jeff Hoggan and Andrew Wong, who have been leading the offensive charge all season, lead the team in scoring. Hoggan has 23 goals and 18 assists for a total of 41 points, a school record. Wong has nine goals and 27 assists.
In goal, Dan Ellis is 18-12-3 with a 2.43 goals against average and .918 save percentage.
One more win will give UNO at least 20 wins for the second straight season.
UNO will play a home-and-home against the Mavericks of Minnesota State-Mankato next weekend, affectionately called the Maverick Cup.