What happened last weekend?
The Huskies went into last weekend’s series with then-No. 5 Denver looking to build on their strong showing against former No. 1 Minnesota. They outshot the Pioneers 12–6 in the opening frame Friday night, but trailed 1–0. From there, things continued to go south on the scoreboard for the Huskies as they were outscored 9–3 for the remainder of the weekend, despite outshooting the Pioneers 66–50. Junior center Dennis Rix scored twice Saturday, tying for the national lead in goals with five.
The Nebraska–Omaha Mavericks continued their struggles against Bemidji State, earning just one point with a 3–3 tie Friday night and a 3–2 loss on Saturday. With a goal in each game, sophomore forward Josh Archibald moved into a tie for the team lead in goals with three. To make matters worse for the Mavericks, their power play was powerless, going zero-for-ten on the weekend.
What were the positives the Huskies learned about themselves?
Two young defensemen stepped up against the Pioneers, one picking up his first goal of the season, the other his first career point.
Sophomore Justin Fillion joined the Huskies halfway through last season. In 18 games, he notched one goal and five points. This season, through six games, the Prince George, B.C., native has a power play goal and two points.
“I thought [Justin] took a stride,” said head coach Mel Pearson. “He played with more urgency, played stronger without the puck. I think Justin has a lot of untapped potential.”
Classmate Jimmy Davis saw his first action since Dec. 30, 2011, thanks in part to an injury suffered by junior Daniel Sova. The Caledonia, Mich., native did not appear out of place despite the long layoff. In fact, he set up Rix’s second goal Saturday night.
“Jimmy was good,” said Pearson. “He played physical, he gives us a physical presence. He likes to hit. He skated well. His puckhandling a couple times got him in trouble, but defensemen are going to make mistakes. It was good for Jimmy.”
Despite the wealth of goals by the Pioneers, Pearson was happy with the lack of turnovers in key areas of the ice all weekend.
What still needs work for the Huskies?
With three goaltenders all capable of starting, Pearson and his staff hoped that they had answered any questions about that potential issue after freshman Pheonix Copley’s performance against the Gophers. However, this past weekend, while he did make some great saves, several long shots found their way through his padding and into the back of the net.
“That’s part of being a freshman and a goaltender,” said Pearson. “Pheonix has struggled in all three of his road games. He made some unbelievable saves – some saves most goalies won’t make – but I think there’s a couple he’d like to have back and those are the killers.”
Fellow freshman Jamie Phillips did not help his cause, surrendering two goals on eight shots in the third period Friday night. However, there is still plenty of time for him to develop into a top goaltender.
The inside scoop: a look at the Mavericks
After two straight weekends again top-five opponents, the Huskies are prepping to face an unranked Western Collegiate Hockey Association opponent for the first time. The Mavericks lost two of their top three scorers from last season with the early departures of Terry Broadhurst and Jayson Megna. However, their top scorer from last season, Matt White, now a junior, is back.
“They are a blue collar, hard-working team with some skill sprinkled in,” said Pearson. “They played extremely well up here last year. The whole second half, they might have been the best team we’ve played.”
One player benefiting from an increased workload is junior forward Brock Montpetit. After scoring 38 points in his first two seasons combined, Montpetit has already picked up seven points in six games this season.
While the Mavericks may not have as much offense as last season, they have nearly as strong a blueline as the Pioneers showed. The corps are led by junior Andrej Sustr and senior Bryce Aneloski. Freshman Nick Seeler has added to their depth, notching four points through the first six games.
“I think they have real good defensemen, not unlike Denver,” said Pearson. “Their strength is their defense.”
Fortunately for the Huskies, the goaltending duo of senior John Faulkner and freshman Anthony Stolarz are not as battle-tested as Sam Brittain and Adam Murray.
Offensively, the Huskies will need to continue to work on getting to the net. They have spent too much time this season playing from the outside rather than crashing the net to get second and third chances.
Defensively, the Huskies will need to do a better job of picking up forwards buzzing around the net. The Pioneers’ forwards got away with too much around the crease while Huskies’ defenders focused on blocking shots.