While pondering how 93 shots on goal in two games produced three goals and not a single point in the NCHC standings, UNO coach Dean Blais evaluated opportunities lost in a home sweep at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth.
He's more than willing to keep moving full speed ahead.
“Defense wins championships,” Blais said. “But in today's game, where the referees are calling all the interference, you need speed and creativity. You can still be good defensively, but you've got to be able to score goals, too.
“We're happy with the way things have gone over the years as far as putting pucks in the net. If we have to go out and get some more pure goal-scorers (through recruiting), well, that can be done.”
UNO put 40 shots on Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Aaron Crandall in Friday's 3-2 loss, then peppered Crandall with 53 more — and hit a pipe on three others — Saturday ... but still lost 3-1 despite having a whopping margin of plus-40 shots on goal.
“It was worse watching it on video,” Blais said. “You wonder, how could we have that many shots? I would say there were 20 quality (chances). Thirty were average (chances) — the goaltender should stop those. And we hit three pipes.
“You need some puck luck, a bounce here or there. We needed a break on a shot the goaltender didn't save, or bobbled.”
Analyzing shots on goal statistics is in some ways inconclusive, but in other ways suggests that the way UNO plays — Blais likes to get 40 shots on goal per game while allowing 30 by opponents (if both goalies stop 90 percent of their shots against, UNO wins 4-3) — isn't too far outside the norm.
The Mavericks, who face another high-volume shooting team this weekend when they travel to Miami (Ohio), lead the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in shots on goal per game (35.9) and shots on goal margin (plus-8.4). Nationally they rank second and fifth in those categories, trailing only top-ranked Minnesota and ranking just ahead of defending national champion Yale in shots on goal. Three of the teams ahead of them in shot margin are Minnesota, defending national runner-up Quinnipiac and sixth-ranked Union.
Of the top nine teams in the country in shot margin, UNO (8-11-1) is the only one with a record below .500, with the Mavs and Minnesota State-Mankato the only unranked teams.
UNO and Miami (9-9-2) are two of the three teams with non-winning records in the top nine in shots on goal.
On the other side, among teams allowing the fewest shots on goal per game, the top seven all have winning records, though the eighth- and ninth-ranked teams don't.
“Maybe we need more sharpshooters coming in on the recruiting side of it,” Blais said. “We have guys who have developed into it. Josh Archibald has become more of a sniper now. And a sniper like Ryan Walters ... hasn't sniped. Yet.”
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Despite Saturday's shot disparity, UNO dropped to 2-4-1 (with the tie an eventual shootout victory) in games when it has hit the 40-shot mark.
“We've had chances against New Hampshire and Duluth — and CC for that matter,” said center Brock Montpetit, citing the last three series in which UNO has gone 0-5-1, dating back to early December. “That long break kind of takes you out of your rhythm. You're not as sharp as you want to be.”
There seems to be no dividing line among the 59 Division I hockey teams equating shots on goal, or shots against, with success. Cut the group in half, and 22 of the top 30 in denying shots on goal have winning records, while 21 of the top 30 in shots on goal and shot margin are above .500.
Heck, UNO is 14th in fewest shots allowed, at 27.5 per game.
So maybe running the numbers is a pointless exercise. Maybe it comes down to individuals.
“When you outshoot a team like Duluth 53-13 and have that many Grade A scoring chances, you've just got to give credit to their goalie,” Walters said. “He had an unbelievable weekend. I think we gave it all we had.”
“We could have scored six or seven goals on Saturday night if we were on,” he said.
Blais said simple things produce UNO's shot totals.
“We do things that tend to lead us to getting those opportunities,” he said. “One is to hit that first outlet pass out of the (defensive) zone. Then it's simple things, stay onside, cycle the puck, shoot the puck — no goals will be scored if you don't shoot. The guys are trying to do offensive things.”
While Blais noted 20 quality chances against Minnesota-Duluth, he thought the Bulldogs got five. But they scored on three of them.
“As a coach, you can't ask for anything more than putting players in those shooting situations,” Blais said. “That means they're moving the puck down the ice pretty well, and then it's up to them to have the ability to finish off.
“Right now we have enough players to score, it's just that we're making some fundamental mistakes defensively to give up easy goals. You can't give up three goals on (13) shots.”
Scoring chances are likely to keep coming for UNO. The Mavs are continuing to sharpen their goal-scoring eyes.
Montpetit put it simply: “This week in practice we're really focusing on actually scoring the goals.”