UNO was already going on the road for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Maybe traveling to Minnesota State-Mankato for the best-of-three series that starts Friday was the best of the options remaining for UNO.
After all, UNO's track record is better against Minnesota State than against Wisconsin or Denver.
“It was getting to be real dicey,” UNO coach Dean Blais said. “For whatever reason we just got beat (twice) by Wisconsin and we might have had to go there, and Denver got three points out of four when we played there and we might have had to go there. We feel we matchup OK (with MSU).”
MSU, which is also known as the Mavericks, is coached by former UNO Associate Coach Mike Hastings.
The teams met in Omaha in mid-December, with MSU winning the opener 6-3 and UNO bouncing back for a 5-1 win the following night.
“They were great games,” Blais said. “Both teams play up and down the ice, and I'm sure the fans enjoyed them.”
A lost weekend at Minnesota-Duluth ultimately sent the Mavericks on the road for the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
UNO was unable to hold on to one of the top six spots in the WCHA standings that would have secured home ice, and now -- as the seventh seed -- has to hit the road.
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The Mavs, riding a four-game losing streak, will be looking to regroup after being swept by the ninth-place Bulldogs by scores of 5-4 and 6-0. Saturday's 6-0 loss was particularly disturbing.
“We're kind of fragile,” Blais said. “And what we ran into Saturday was a team that played real loose and had nothing to lose because they weren't going to move (in the standings). All the pressure was us, and we played up tight from the time the puck was dropped.”
Blais said he takes part of the blame for the Mavs' performance, which he called the most disappointing of the year.
“There's enough pressure on the guys without me putting more on them,” he said.
No. 16 UNO (18-16-2 overall, 14-12-2 WCHA) has lost seven of its last nine games.
Minnesota State (22-11-3, 16-11-1), ranked 10th in the country, tied for fourth in the WCHA with Wisconsin and Denver with 33 points, but wound up the sixth seed because of tiebreakers. Denver pulled itself into the fourth-place tie by completing a sweep of Alaska-Anchorage on Sunday.
In other first-round WCHA matchups, top seed St. Cloud State plays host to Alaska-Anchorage, second seed Minnesota plays host to Bemidji State, No. 3 seed North Dakota entertains Michigan Tech, fourth seed Wisconsin plays host to Minnesota-Duluth, and fifth seed Denver welcomes rival Colorado College.
Winners of the best of three series advance to the WCHA's Final Five. The top two remaining seeds receive byes into the semifinals of the six-team, single-elimination portion of the tournament that determines the league's automatic NCAA tournament qualifier.
For the second straight year, UNO lost its final four regular season games to play its way out of home ice.
Last year the Mavs played more competitively against NCAA tournament-caliber teams in Minnesota and Denver, but they were also at the end of what turned into a sub-.500 season.
This year the Mavs have had a better overall season, but struggled badly against surging Wisconsin and struggling Minnesota-Duluth.
Blais said he can't predict if his team will play more relaxed now that home ice has officially been lost and the playoffs have finally arrived.
“This is a different feeling than last year,” he said. “This year we've fallen off a little bit. This isn't the best time of year to be having these slumps. But I like the way our guys are competing.”
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