Though the temperature reached 100 degrees earlier this week, it’s almost hockey time in Omaha.
UNO will begin its season Oct. 1 in a home exhibition against Minnesota State. Coach Mike Gabinet said the team has been practicing hard and will be ready to go.
“Practice has been going great,” he said. “It’s given me a chance to get to know all the newcomers and I’m impressed with the young men here.”
There will be nine freshmen on the squad, including goalies Simon Latkoczy and Raythan Robbins. The other netminder is Jacob Zab, a senior who has yet to see any game action.
The team held a 90-minute open house last Sunday at Baxter Arena, which gave the fans a chance to meet and skate with the team.
“It was a great turnout,” Gabinet said. “It was our first event since COVID and I love getting our team in front of our fans.”
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In his sixth season as head coach, Gabinet said he has been busy building team chemistry while making sure the young players understand what’s expected.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces and there have been a lot of teaching moments,” he said. “We’re getting people up to speed because the season is almost here.”
Gabinet and team captain Nolan Sullivan took part in the annual NCHC media day Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Picking the captain is a decision made by the players and coaches,” Gabinet said. “When everyone agrees, then you know that you’ve got a really good leader.”
Mavs picked seventh
UNO has been picked to finish seventh in the eight-team NCHC in a preseason vote of the news media.
Denver is the overwhelming choice to win the conference. The Pioneers received 19 of 23 first-place votes and 180 points in the media poll.
North Dakota, which tied with Denver for first place in the NCHC last season, placed second. The Fighting Hawks received the other four first-place votes and 160 points.
The rest of the teams are Minnesota Duluth (136 points), St. Cloud State (115), Western Michigan (86), Colorado College (64), UNO (59) and Miami (28).
The Mavs have never won the Penrose Cup as the regular-season league champion.
Pioneers dominate poll
Denver claimed four of the six spots on the league’s preseason All-Conference squad, selected by the media.
The four Pioneers are goalie Magnus Chrona, defensemen Mike Benning and Sean Behrens and forward Carter Mazur. Also on the team are North Dakota forward Riese Gaber and St. Cloud State forward Jami Krannila.
Mazur and Gaber each received 22 of 23 possible votes.
UNO’s exhibition game Oct. 1 against Minnesota State will be one of 19 home games this season for the Mavs.
Coach Mike Gabinet’s squad will start the regular season Oct. 7 with the first of two games against Niagara.
North Dakota will visit Baxter Arena for a pair of games Nov. 4-5.
October: 1, Minnesota State (exhibition), 6:07 p.m. 7, Niagara, 7:07 p.m. 8, Niagara, 7:07 p.m. 14, at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m. 15, at Lake Superior State, 5:07 p.m. 21, Alaska Fairbanks, 7:07 p.m. 23, Alaska Fairbanks, 2 p.m. 28, at Long Island, 6:45 p.m. 29, at Long Island, 6:07 p.m.
November: 4, North Dakota, 7:07 p.m. 5, North Dakota, 7:07 p.m. 11, at Minnesota Duluth, 7 p.m. 12, at Minnesota Duluth, 6 p.m. 25, at Denver, 8 p.m. 26, at Denver, 7 p.m.
December: 2, Western Michigan, 7:07 p.m. 3, Western Michigan, 7:07 p.m. 9, at Colorado College, 8 p.m. 10, at Colorado College, 7 p.m. 30, St. Lawrence, 7:07 p.m. 31, St. Lawrence, 8:07 p.m.
January: 13, Minnesota Duluth, 7:07 p.m. 14, Minnesota Duluth, 7:07 p.m. 20, Miami,. 7:07 p.m. 21, Miami, 7:07 p.m. 27, at Western Michigan, TBA. 28, at Western Michigan, TBA.
February: 10, Colorado College, 7:07 p.m. 11, Colorado College, 7:07 p.m. 17, at Miami, 6:05 p.m. 18, at Miami, 4:05 p.m. 24, St. Cloud State, 7:07 p.m. 25, St. Cloud State, 7:07 p.m.
March: 3, at North Dakota, 7:07 p.m. 4, at North Dakota, 6:07 p.m. 10-12, NCHC quarterfinal playoffs. 17-18, Frozen Faceoff.
Denver picked first
Denver received 37 of 50 possible first-place votes in the first USCHO national hockey rankings.
The Pioneers, who received 974 points, are one of three NCHC teams in the top five. The others are No. 4 North Dakota and No. 5 Minnesota Duluth.
Two other league teams – St. Cloud State and Western Michigan – cracked the preseason Top 20. The Huskies are No. 13 and the Broncos are No. 14.
UNO is one of several unranked teams that received votes.
State of the NCHC
As part of the league’s Media Day, new commissioner Heather Weems issued a state of the conference speech.
“We have a great year of hockey ahead,” she said. “We’re getting it done on the ice and off the ice.”
Weems mentioned the league’s 51 All-Americans, six Academic All-Americans and five NCAA national championships. She also spoke about the 12 Olympians, 85 NHL players and the five NCHC alumni who have hoisted the Stanley Cup.
To celebrate the 10th season of the NCHC, a documentary will be filmed and an all-decade team will be selected.
Weems, who previously had been the athletic director at St. Cloud State, took over for Josh Fenton. She is the first woman to serve as NCHC commissioner.
Frozen Faceoff tickets
The NCHC has announced that fans may renew their tickets for the 2023 Frozen Faceoff.
Fans who purchased all-session tickets to last year’s Frozen Faceoff have the first opportunity to renew their seats. Those fans will receive email instructions and renewals must be completed by Oct. 21.
The Frozen Faceoff semifinals will be held March 17 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The final will be played March 18.