Gopher Hockey Preview: Nebraska-Omaha

This weekend, the Gopher hockey team will face off against their newest conference foes, Nebraska-Omaha. The game against the feisty Mavericks will be a hard-fought game that might turn into a heated conference rivalry.

Both teams will enter the weekend with 2-0 records. Last weekend Nebraska-Omaha trounced Clarkson University 8-0 and shut down RIT by the score of 5-3. The Gophers opened with a sweep at home against UMass.

Both teams played the University of British Columbia in a preseason exhibition game with both teams tallying six goals. The Mavericks and Gophers both have players who can put the puck in the net. Expect a high scoring affair on Friday and Saturday night.

The Mavericks bring a massive team to Minneapolis tonight. According to the Nebraska-Omaha roster, the team has eight players who are 6-foot-3 or taller, including 6-foot-8 freshman Andrej Sustr.

The size of the Mavericks may give the Gophers trouble. Minnesota has smaller defensemen like Kevin Wehrs and Aaron Ness that might have trouble out-muscling bigger forwards in the corners or in front of the net.

The big Maverick team will no doubt play a physical game under the tutelage of former North Dakota coach and Gopher player, Dean Blais.

The Gophers should be able to take advantage of their home ice advantage and their speed. The fans at Mariucci Arena should be hyped and loud for the opening of the WCHA season.

Mariucci is a tough place to play regardless of the opponent but a new WCHA foe should add fuel to the fire. If the Gophers can come out in the first period and score early to get the crowd behind them, they should be able to ride the momentum to a win.

Minnesota also boasts some very fast players on their roster. Players like Jacob Cepis, Taylor Matson and Jay Barriball can flat out fly. Look for these players to look and find open space through the Maverick defense.

Mariucci Arena has a much bigger ice surface than Nebraska-Omaha which will also help the accentuate Gophers speed advantage. If the Gophers play their fast style, aggressive style of hockey they should be able to start the WCHA season with a winning record.

The Gophers speed, skill and home ice advantage should be enough to sneak past the Mavericks. Look for a score of 4-3 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday for Minnesota's second straight sweep at home.

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