UNO’s series this weekend at Maine is only part of the story as the Mavericks begin the 2020 portion of their schedule.
The team’s travel itinerary also will play a major role.
The Mavs will play the Black Bears at 5 p.m. Friday at Alfond Arena in Orono, Maine. UNO then will hop on a bus after the game and travel 2 ½ hours in preparation for Saturday’s 11 a.m. contest at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.
“They play one game at Portland every year,” coach Mike Gabinet said. “It’s a quick turnaround for us, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Another challenge the Mavs faced this week was out of the coach’s control. Half the team’s player bags and all of their sticks arrived late, forcing an impromptu practice Thursday.
This weekend will be UNO’s first action since splitting a pair of home games Dec. 21 and 22 against Arizona State.
“It was a nice holiday break for the guys,” Gabinet said. “I know they’re looking forward to the second half of the season.”
The Mavs enter the nonconference series at 8-8-2. Maine, a member of Hockey East, is 9-8-3.
Gabinet said the team is excited to play a school with such a rich hockey tradition. The Black Bears have reached the NCAA Frozen Four 11 times since 1988 and have won two national titles.
“They’ve got a lot of history,” the coach said. “And they’ve beaten some good teams this season.”
Gabinet added that there also might be a positive to the rather offbeat split-city series.
“I like playing those early games,” he said. “And I hear those games in Portland really draw well, so we should have a great atmosphere.”
The Mavs are hoping to ride the momentum of a season-high eight-goal performance in the Dec. 22 win over the Sun Devils. Senior forward Teemu Pulkkinen had four assists and sophomore forward Taylor Ward scored twice.
Kevin Conley leads the team in scoring with 16 points, while Ward has a team-high 10 goals.
The Mavs still will be without goalie Isaiah Saville for this series. He is playing for Team USA at the World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.
Freshman Austin Roden was in the net for both games against Arizona State, his third and fourth starts of the season.
Gabinet said his team will be focused on the Black Bears and won’t be peeking ahead to next weekend — a pair of games at top-ranked North Dakota.
“We’re just thinking about Maine,” he said. “I know our guys will be ready to go.”
The Black Bears are led by Red Gendron, who is in his seventh season as coach ... The Maine hockey program has struggled in recent years and has not reached the NCAA tournament since 2012 ... UNO is 1-3 all-time against the Black Bears, 1-1 on the road ... The Mavs have not played Maine since 1998 ... Senior forward Mitchell Fossier, who previously played for Sioux City of the United States Hockey League, leads Maine in scoring with four goals and 18 assists.