How Omaha can beat the Fighting Hawks: Find the power play

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

The Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha are the fastest team UND will see the rest of the way this season. Team speed in the opposition alone gives UND pause, but there is another thing Omaha has to do with that speed in order to win this weekend.

Draw penalties

While UND has a size and strength advantage on most teams, Omaha included, they are also more undisciplined than the Mavericks. They have made up for it with a sterling penalty kill, getting through 88.24 percent of their short-handed time unscathed. With that said, Omaha is putting home 20.37 percent of their power play chances. This team is fast enough with Kevin Conley and Taylor Ward, amongst others, working to get their teams as many reps as possible.

Why does this matter?

Well, UND’s penalty kill is typically more aggressive when teams like to dither in the offensive zone and pass the puck looking for the perfect opportunity. Colorado College did this frequently, and thieir extra chances to score fell by the wayside. Omaha’s system is one more comprised of simplicity off its own speed, leading to more shots on net, and rebounds. Despite his sterling record, Adam Scheel’s biggest liability is getting over laterally on rebounds to prevent that second or third look from going into the net. Taylor Ward, and others for the Mavericks like to make good defenses defend, and know how to get shots on net quickly. This year, Omaha also can arguably afford to be aggressive, because Isaiah Saville has an identical save percentage to Scheel, and is quite decent stopping breakaway attempts.

The speed of the Mavericks will utimately generate some extra power play time for them, and do not sleep on the Omaha penalty kill as well. It leads the nation, killing 94 percent of its short-handed work without harm to the scoreline.

While Omaha will of course take advantage of some power play looks, the bigger prize to them is arguably getting UND out of his rythym. Despite having the skill and makeup to play two top lines and plug guys in, Head Coach Brad Berry is choosing to spread out his best players and vary the lines as much as possible. If you want all four lines to play equally, killing too many penalties is not good for that mission, because it forces teams to shorten their bench for not ideal reasons. Eventually, that will come back to harm this team, and as we said monday, this Omaha team will make UND pay for more of their penalties, especially the needless ones in the offensive zone.

For all of their talent and skill, the Fighting Hawks are one of the more undisciplined teams in the country based on the amount of penalties they take per game, and where they typically take them. If they keep things simple and race to the net, Omaha can take advantage of that. Last year, the Mavericks shattered the aura of Ralph Engelstad Arena and proved that a team playing the right way can beat the Fighting Hawks on home ice. This year, Omaha looks to use this series to again catapult them to a higher position in the race for a NCAA Tournament selection.

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