Oh Bemidji State, why do you vex UNO?
Six times the teams met last year and Bemidji State, which went 10-18-4 against the rest of the college hockey world, posted a 5-0-1 record against the Mavericks.
It started when the Mavs, ranked fourth in the country at the time, were swept after traveling to the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn., in early December.
Back for a series in Omaha in January, the Mavs settled for a tie in the opener before losing in overtime the second night. That 0-3-1 mark cost UNO seven points in the WCHA standings, enough to have given them a share of the regular-season title rather than settling for third place.
Then Bemidji came back to Omaha in March and swept the Mavs out of the WCHA playoffs. UNO was 21-11-1 against everybody else.
"Going 0-5-1 against them, we've marked this one on the calendar since the schedule came out," UNO forward Ryan Walters said. "We really want to come at them and show them how we can really play."
The problem in playing against the Beavers is that their conservative, counter-punching defensive style is the antithesis of how the Mavericks want to play.
"They'll dump the puck out in the neutral zone and count on you making a turnover," UNO coach Dean Blais said. "We've got to play a patient game, but we don't want to change our whole game based on their defensive style.
"We don't have to make it pretty. We just have to make it effective."
UNO (5-4 overall, 4-2 WCHA) heads to the Sanford Center this weekend for games Friday at 7:37 p.m. and Saturday at 7:07 p.m.
"Obviously we struggled against them last year and that's one you put on the backburner and remember," UNO goalie John Faulkner said. "You've got to have a little chip on your shoulder."
The biggest problem for UNO last season against the Beavers might have been goalie Dan Bakala, who was between the pipes for all six matchups and posted a sublime .960 save percentage, stopping 217 of the 226 shots UNO sent his way.
And after shutting out the Mavs on 25 shots in the first meeting, Bakala might have gotten better. In the playoff series, he saved 46 of 48 in the opener and 41 of 43 in the decider.
"We didn't get any bounces against them, and their goaltender stood on his head," Walters said. "We'd put some shots on net and he'd make big saves, and that had to give him confidence. Sometimes you do that and you start making saves late in the game that you wouldn't make if a few of them had squeaked by earlier in the game."
Bemidji's lineup last year also included forward Matt Read, who is skating with the Philadelphia Flyers this season and has three goals and seven points.
"He was the difference in almost every game," Blais said.
Unlike last weekend's wide-open series with Colorado College, in which the Mavs earned a split with the team that had been ranked No. 2 in the country, UNO knows things are going to look different this weekend.
"We thought we'd match up well with CC because that's a skating team," Blais said. "They were both great games. (But) these aren't going to be great games. It's going to take a lot of patience. At times there will be boredom because of the way they play."
Bakala is 2-3 this season with a 2.87 goals-against average but a save percentage of only .886. He's split time with two others thus far for a Beavers team that is 4-6 and 2-4.
But this weekend, UNO comes to town.
"They are disciplined in everything they do, and you have to give their coaches credit for that," Blais said. "They don't take chances offensively. Defensively they play a real compact defensive-zone coverage. They'll give you shots from the outside knowing their goaltender is good."
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