UNO is back at work this week, trying to put some energy into a power play lacking zip.
The Mavericks were 0 for 10 with the man advantage last weekend while dropping three of the four points in a home series with Bemidji State — an inauspicious beginning to WCHA play.
Now, with the Mavs set to make the long road trip to play a series with improving Michigan Tech, they'd like to get a boost from one of their special teams.
UNO ranks 49th nationally (out of 59 teams) on the power play, with a success rate of just 8 percent (2 of 25).
“We've had opportunities, against Army, Notre Dame and Northern Michigan, where we've moved the puck around pretty well,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “But we didn't move it around very well at all against Bemidji.
“They forced us (with defensive pressure). And now, with the availability of video, everyone is going to put us into those situations. So we've got to figure it out and figure it out fast.”
UNO didn't put a shot on goal during two first-period power plays in Saturday's 3-2 loss, then didn't generate much in the first 2:45 of a five-minute power play in the third period. That man advantage ended when UNO picked up a penalty of its own.
The Mavs (2-3-1 overall, 0-1-1 WCHA) managed just two shots on goal during their power plays Saturday and five shots on goal in their 10 man-advantage opportunities during the series.
“This week we're taking more pride in our power play and we're working hard at it,” UNO forward Josh Archibald said. “Obviously, your five guys have to be working harder than their four guys. Unfortunately, we weren't doing that against Bemidji.”
Personnel will shift here and there as Blais continues to experiment with combinations both in even-strength and special teams situations.
Mostly, though, improved execution is the desired output.
“We've got to move the puck to get some shots, and when we get a shot, don't overpass — take it,” Blais said. “Then we need guys at the net tipping and screening.
“But we didn't even get those opportunities (against Bemidji). We didn't dump the puck in so we could retrieve it. Too many times we threw it at the goaltender, and he'd stop it and throw it around the boards or get it down the ice.”
Too many times, also, UNO thwarted its power play by taking penalties.
Five of Saturday's seven power plays were cut short. Besides ending what could have been a game-changing five-minute power play with a penalty, the Mavs also were caught twice with too many men on the ice.
“We just weren't all there mentally,” Archibald said. “We'd just make mental errors or take a penalty to even things up.”
Discipline is key, Blais said.
“We nullified a five-minute major by taking a hooking penalty 200 feet from our goal,” he said. “You've got to realize that the referees don't like calling five-minute majors in the first place, so anything you do to equalize that ... they're going to call it. That's pretty consistent.”
The penalties for too many men on the ice, Blais said, are an early-season issue that can crop up when coaches have been allowed full time in practice for just more than two weeks.
“Part of that is our fault — you've got to make sure the guys know who is going out next,” he said. “We haven't had a whole lot of time to put the guys in the right place at the right time (on the power play).”
At least UNO is stingy on the penalty kill, keeping its opponent scoreless on 23 of 25 chances, a 92 percent success rate that is tied for 11th nationally.
With Brent Gwidt's short-handed goal to their credit, the Mavs' special teams net of plus-1 is tied for fourth best in the WCHA.
“The penalty kill has been not too bad — acceptable, I guess,” Blais said. “One (power play) is not too acceptable, and the other is acceptable.”
The numbers indicate that the Mavs might have a chance to get things going against Michigan Tech (2-4, 1-3). The Huskies' penalty killers rank just 43rd nationally at 77.4 percent, allowing seven goals in 31 chances.
But the Huskies' penalty kill was better in series against No. 2 Minnesota and No. 3 North Dakota (15 of 18, 83.3 percent) the past two weekends than it was against unranked Lake Superior State (9 of 13, 69.2 percent) the opening weekend.
Of course, anything less than peak performance can always lead to a little angst.
“You're always experimenting,” Blais said. “If you ask someone with a 25 percent success rate, they'll think it could be better.”
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