View From Nebraska Omaha

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Minnesota heads to Nebraska Omaha this weekend so we caught up with Matthew Semisch, who covers the Mavericks. You can read more of Semisch's work at radiofreeomaha.com and follow him on twitter @matthewsemisch. Semisch also covers the Mavericks for USCHO.com so be sure to check out his work there this weekend as well.

GopherSports.com: Matthew, can you give us a scouting report on Nebraska Omaha?

Matthew Semisch: Nebraska Omaha has experienced some bad results in recent weeks, including getting only one point from a possible four against Bemidji State in the Mavericks' last home series back at the start of this month, but the Mavericks have looked better lately.

UNO just ended a four-game road trip against Michigan Tech and Colorado College with a 2-1-1 record over that stretch. The Mavericks were unlucky not to pick up a point in last Friday's game at CC, where they saw a late potential game-tying goal waved off as it was decided that freshman forward Dominic Zombo had intentionally redirected the puck into the Tiger net with his right skate.

The visitors avenged the loss the following night, though, coming back from 3-1 down to win 5-3. Funnily enough, it was Zombo that scored the Mavericks' first goal of the night - and the first of his collegiate career - in the rematch.

UNO is now 14-12-6 and 11-8-5 in the WCHA, but anyone who overlooks the Mavericks after just looking at their record does so at his or her own risk. Nobody wants to be hovering around .500, but UNO is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, and the Mavericks are in pretty good shape health-wise at this point in the season.

The power play has been UNO's biggest issue lately, just as it has throughout the season. The Mavericks have only run on a 19.2 percent clip with the man advantage - second-bottom in the league - and they would do well to bump those numbers up in these last two weeks before postseason play begins.

GS: Who is one player that Minnesota fans should pay close attention to?

MS: UNO forward Matt White - the team's consistent assist machine and the Mavericks' current leading point-scorer - seems the obvious answer, but I think freshman goaltender Ryan Massa may have a bigger impact on this weekend's series.

He hasn't always had tons of help in front of him, but he has come in as a true freshman and really performed well. Head coach Dean Blais went most of the season experimenting in games with three of his four goaltenders, but Massa has finally assumed the No. 1 role in recent weeks. Now-junior goaltender John Faulkner was Blais's go-to goalie last season, but Massa has taken over for him.

A perfect case in point took place on Saturday at CC, where Blais pulled Faulkner after the game's second period. UNO was down 3-2 after 40 minutes, but Massa came in and stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third frame while the skaters in front of him put together three goals for a total of four unanswered to run out winners on the night.

GS: What does Nebraska Omaha need to do to win this weekend?

MS: UNO is entering its four biggest games of the season over the next two weeks, with Minnesota and ninth-ranked Denver coming to CenturyLink Center. Adding to that the fact that UNO is in the middle of a three-way tie for fourth place in the league, the importance of these upcoming games surely can't be lost on anyone in the Maverick camp, and the team will need to rise to the occasions.

A positive attitude and confidence go a long way in this sport, but mental attributes on their own can't and won't see you through against the quality of opposition UNO has coming up.

UNO will need big contributions from throughout its lineup. White, junior Terry Broadhurst and freshman Jayson Megna are the Mavericks' big danger men up front, and they will need to find their way onto the scoresheets. The Maverick defense has looked better recently, too, and that will have to continue, and Massa will have to keep putting in solid performances in the UNO nets.

For me, any success UNO gets this weekend and next week against DU will come down to whether the team plays to its potential. That hasn't always been there this season, but things have looked better for the Mavericks lately. It will be interesting to see if that upswing continues.

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