UNO coach Dean Blais said he isn't quite ready yet.
But soon, he said, undisciplined penalties could lead him to sit players out of games.
“If they take many more, they won't be playing,” Blais said. “They'll be sitting up in the stands. How many times do you have to tell them, show them, that it's a bad penalty? And if they take it ... what else is there that they'll understand?”
UNO, which is preparing for a weekend home series with No. 19 Cornell, is off to a 2-2 start despite being hit with 34 penalties and having attempted to kill 29 power plays. The Mavericks skated at least one man down 18 times in a road split at Northern Michigan, including 10 times in Saturday's 6-3 loss, when UNO gave up four power-play goals.
“It's up to the captains to make sure they understand that we're not just talking to hear ourselves talk,” Blais said. “We want to see the results from it.”
Saturday's 10 penalty-kill game represented the highest total for the UNO program since it tried to kill off 11 penalties in a game against Colorado College in the 2010-11 season. Only six other times in program history have the Mavs had to kill off more than 10 penalties.
During UNO's 2-1 win Friday, Northern Michigan's only goal came on a 5-on-3 power play. The Mavs had to kill off four penalties in the third period and eight in all.
The Wildcats scored three second-period power-play goals on Saturday to break a 1-1 tie. The goal that made it 3-1 also came during a 5-on-3.
“Both Friday and Saturday night we were killing a penalty and took a ridiculous second one to put us down 5-on-3 ... and they scored on both of them,” Blais said. “Those kinds of penalties we have to eliminate.”
Through two weekends of play, only Bowling Green (32) and Michigan Tech (31) have had penalty killers on the ice more than UNO. And the Mavs' penalty kill has been successful just 72.4 percent of the time — only seven teams have been worse.
“It's something we have to be aware of,” UNO center Brock Montpetit said. “Being on the penalty kill that much, it takes our top guys — they're on the penalty kill — it takes a lot out of them. When you get on the penalty kill, you have to plan on the momentum swinging the other way and you have to build it back up from there.”
The Mavs took 12 penalties in all Saturday, matching the most the team has had since racking up 14 in an 8-4 win over North Dakota in 2011.
“We've got to hopefully learn that we can't take a dozen penalties,” Blais said. “Because the other team has skilled players, too, and they're going to get shots on net.”
Including its two-game home split with Bentley to open the season, UNO has been whistled for 34 penalties, its most in a four-game stretch since being boxed 36 times in the fall of 2010.
“It's the beginning of the year, and guys are used to play summer hockey,” Montpetit said. “And talking with refs, they say they're a lot tighter on everything they're calling. They're bearing down on penalties and cleaning the game up. Same with faceoffs — everybody is getting kicked out if you touch a guy before (the puck is dropped). Small things like that, I don't think we're quite used to it.”
Closely called games, penalties that maybe aren't always called — they often go with the territory in hockey, an understood variable.
“If the officials are calling them pretty close, we can't control that,” Blais said. “There's going to be calls you disagree with, and you can't lose your discipline when you think it's a bad call.
“A lot of time when (you think) the referee makes a mistake, you kill those off. What seems to go into your net is the undisciplined penalties — stick penalties, cross-checking — the hockey gods have a way of evening those out and the other team scores on you.”
Maybe the most ironic part of it is that the Mavs seem to be anything but the Broad Street Bullies of college hockey.
Blais has tried to build his team for speed.
“I don't look at our team as being overly physical or overly aggressive,” Blais said. “We should be a skating team that makes plays and attacks, and not a retaliation team.”
Most penalty kills, game
|14 (2)||at Ferris St.||12/5/2009|
|12 (4)||vs. Miami||1/24/2009|
|12 (3)||vs. Ferris St.||11/23/2001|
|11 (3)||at Colo. College||12/18/2010|
|11 (1)||vs. N. Hampshire||10/15/2005|
|11 (3)||at Army||11/22/1997|
|10 (4)||at Northern Michigan||Saturday|
|10 (3)||vs. Alaska-FB||3/8/2008|
|10 (1)||at Miami||1/22/2005|
|10 (2)||at Miami||1/21/2005|
|10 (4)||at Ferris St.||2/28/2003|
|10 (2)||at Merrimack||11/25/2000|
|10 (3)||vs. Niagara||1/29/1999|
|10 (0)||vs. Air Force||1/15/1999|
Note: Since 2000-01, UNO has had 19 games with nine penalty kills and 39 games with eight penalty kills (including Friday at Northern Michigan).