University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey coach Dean Blais has one primary message for his squad this week — do not look past Colorado College.
Given the Tigers’ 1-10-2 record, that might not be easy. But Blais knows his 16th-ranked Mavericks — 8-6 overall and 5-1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference — can’t afford any letdown.
“Despite their record, they’re a very good team,’’ Blais said. “They’ve got a lot of young players, and we know they’ll bring a lot of energy.’’
UNO, which has climbed into first place in the NCHC, swept Miami of Ohio two weeks ago. The Mavs, who haven’t played a road game since early November, are coming off a 4-2 homestand.
The season hasn’t gone nearly so well for Colorado College, which has gone 0-10-2 since winning its season opener. The Tigers were swept by visiting New Hampshire in a nonconference series last weekend, losing 6-2 and 3-0.
“They actually outshot New Hampshire in both of those games,’’ Blais said. “I know they’ll be ready for us.’’
The series against Colorado College comes at an interesting time for the Mavs, who were idle last weekend and will have three weeks off after this series. After Saturday night’s game, UNO won’t return to action until Jan. 4 at New Hampshire.
The Mavs will seek to ride the goaltending of junior Ryan Massa, who has won five consecutive starts. He finished November with a 5-0 mark, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
Blais said Massa would get the start again Friday night.
“He’s been the hot goalie,’’ the coach said. “But we need to make sure we get some goals for him.’’
Several UNO players rank among the conference scoring leaders. Josh Archibald and Ryan Walters are tied for the team scoring lead with 15 points each, tied for fifth in the NCHC.
Brock Montpetit and Dominic Zombo are in a six-way tie for eighth in the conference scoring race with 12 points.
Archibald leads the team with 10 goals, tying him with Miami’s Riley Barber and Blake Coleman for the league lead.
The Mavericks also have picked up four Bauer NCHC Player of the Week honors this season. Massa was the most recent winner, named goalie of the week following UNO’s sweep of Miami on Nov. 22-23.
Colorado College is led by freshman Sam Rothstein, who has a goal and four assists. Freshman Alex Roos has four points and leads the Tigers in goals with three.
Senior Josh Thorimbert has been the workhorse in net for Colorado College, playing in all 13 games. He has a 2.99 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
Those aren’t bad numbers for a goalie whose team ranks 58th out of 59 in the NCAA with a scoring average of 1.31 per game.
Blais said he likes the way his team has been playing and said he hopes the Mavs can continue their winning ways before the Christmas break.
“We needed last weekend off because our schedule has been really tough,’’ he said. “We’ll have to make sure we come out ready to play again Friday night.’’
» Notes: With his 15 points this season, Walters cracked UNO’s top 10 list for career scoring. He has 115 points, sixth in school history and just one point behind Dan Charleston for fifth. ... The Mavs are ranked 16th in the weekly USCHO.com poll. UNO received votes but is not ranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top 15 poll. ... UNO leads the all-time series 5-3-1 against Colorado College. ... UNO freshman forward Jake Guentzel has been named the NCHC Rookie of the Month for November ... The Tigers will play a pair of games in Omaha, on Feb. 28 and March 1. ... Colorado College is guided by Scott Owens, in his 15th season as head coach. The former Tigers goalie previously was the head coach and general manager of the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League.