Revamped hockey team ready for challenging season

Photo by KETV

Justin Kies

The 2017-18 UNO men’s hockey season is finally here and will begin with an exhibition game against Nipissing University on Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. at Omaha’s Baxter Arena.

After a surprising resignation this offseason from former eight-year Head Coach Dean Blais, UNO promoted their Associate Coach Mike Gabinet to fill the position.

Gabinet was previously an associate coach for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology from 2012-15, and their head coach from 2015-16. In his one season as head coach of NAIT, he posted a flawless record of 36-0 before coming to be an assistant coach in Omaha in 2016. Gabinet and his Mavericks will be looking for similar success after finishing last season with a record of 17-17-5 and just 9-13-2 in conference play. Despite losing a few players from last year, the Mavericks are lucky to bring back two experienced goaltenders; juniors Evan Weninger and Alex Blankenburg; the offensive duo of senior forwards Tyler Vesel and David Pope; along with the help of senior captain Joel Messner to continue their success and help their team to another appearance in the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament. UNO has reached the NCAA tournament three times before in their program’s short history, even getting to the Frozen Four in their most recent 2015 appearance.

In a recent preseason poll, this year’s UNO Mavericks were picked to finish seventh in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, one spot ahead of last place. Denver University, the defending national champions, are the clear-cut favorites to win the NCHC. The relatively young Mavericks look forward to beginning NCHC competition in November against Colorado College and hope to prove the preseason polls wrong in search for their first conference championship under first year Head Coach Gabinet. The official start of this year’s UNO men’s hockey season takes place in Lowell, Massachusetts on Oct. 13, against UMASS Lowell, before they come back to Baxter Arena and host Arizona State on Oct. 207