Goalie Ryan Massa is returning to the UNO hockey program and could practice with the Mavericks for the first time this season as early as Wednesday.
UNO coach Dean Blais said Massa registered for classes on Tuesday. The Mavs were looking for a quick injection of depth after primary backup Anthony Stolarz left the program Monday to play major-junior hockey.
Massa, who led UNO goalies in minutes last season as a freshman, announced last summer that he would sit out this season. Massa has been in Omaha, Blais said, working out with the Omaha Lancers team.
Since the season is more than half over, UNO intends to try to preserve a redshirt season for the Littleton, Colo., native, barring injury to senior John Faulkner or sophomore Dayn Belfour.
“If something happens, we'd talk to him and try to pull it off,” Blais said. “But that's a decision that everyone has to be in on.”
Faulkner (11-3-1), third nationally with a .767 winning percentage, figures to remain UNO's primary goalie. Belfour, son of Hall of Famer Ed Belfour, hasn't appeared in a game this season, but he was 2-1-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in six games last season.
Blais alternated Faulkner, Massa and Belfour last season, with Massa getting the majority of the minutes over the final three months of the season.
Massa was 7-8-2 with a 2.60 GAA and .914 save percentage.
Blais said Massa has stayed reasonably sharp while working out with the Lancers.
“(Coach) Mike Aikens and their staff said he'd probably be one of their captains if he was eligible to be one,” Blais said. “He's been lifting weights, so he's improved his strength and his core. And he's gotten the shots (against) he's needed.”
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Meanwhile, Belfour figures to see his first action of the season at some point, perhaps in this weekend's series between the No. 13 Mavs and No. 11 Denver.
One of Belfour's starts last year was on the road against a red-hot Denver team that had scored seven goals the night before in a win over Faulkner. UNO and Denver skated to a 3-3 tie with Belfour in net.
“He played quite well,” Blais said. “One goal he gave up was a bad-angle goal, but it was by (former Denver star Jason) Zucker — not a lot of guys can pick that upper corner like he can.”
Stolarz, a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, was 2-5 with a 2.56 GAA and .898 save percentage while appearing in eight games — seven starts.
All five of his losses were by one goal, and six of his eight appearances were against ranked opponents. He started the second game of the weekend his first five games, then relieved Faulkner in his sixth appearance and started the next night. After the Christmas break, he started the first game of the Quinnipiac series and gave up five goals.
Faulkner started UNO's next three games, and his back-to-back wins over Colorado College helped UNO move into first place in the WCHA.
“I talked to the guys about Ryan joining us, and they were all about that,” Blais said. “Johnny was in on that discussion as one of the (assistant) captains. And (Faulkner) obviously thought it was the right thing to do.”
Blais, who previously had a long coaching career at North Dakota, said he couldn't recall having a goalie leave at midseason for the pros before.
In the end, Massa was available and ready to return.
“It's funny how it all worked out,” Blais said. “Really odd in a way.”
Archibald shares player of week honors
UNO forward Josh Archibald was named Tuesday as the WCHA's co-offensive player of the week, sharing the award with North Dakota's Corban Knight.
Archibald, a sophomore from Brainerd, Minn., powered the host Mavericks (13-8-1) to back-to-back conference wins over visiting Colorado College and into first place in the WCHA at 9-4-1.
He had a three-goal hat trick, the first of his collegiate career, in UNO's 8-4 win Friday. The following night, he scored his fourth goal of the series in the third period, giving him four goals on four shots. He also had a plus-4 rating for the series.
His hat trick was the first for a UNO player since Joey Martin on Jan. 21, 2011, at North Dakota.
A draftee of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, Archibald is third on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points, all career highs. He is tied for 13th in the WCHA in scoring.
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