Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Tonight, the Mavericks of Nebraska Omaha take on the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota at Baxter Arena, in a game featuring one of the best Omaha teams since Ryan Massa lead them to the Frozen Four in 2015. Below are some thoughts on what will happen this weekend. Keep in mind that both starting goaltenders have the same save percentage heading into this game, yet Adam Scheel plays behind a more defensive defense. That is, UND gives up less shots on net per game, but arguably, the speed of Omaha’s is a bit higher. With that mind, here are three predictions for the weekend.
A split or better for Omaha is likely
Despite all of the adulation UND has been receiving, and rightly so for their play this far, due to the unbalanced schedule, they have not faced Omaha at all to this point. The Omaha group this year has the speed and scoring of St. Cloud, with a bit more physical prowess in front of the net. Because of that, this is the most complete team UND will play prior to the NCAA Tournament, should one happen. It takes a lot to get this Fighting Hawks team out of their rhythm for a full game, but when it happens, it happens fast and pretty uniformly. When Denver ran their Friday night win over UND, they did so by scoring first and forcing more mistakes from a team not used to making them. Omaha’s speed and scoring lead by Taylor Ward, coupled with the play of Isaiah Saville in net will get the Mavericks far this weekend.
Adam Scheel’s save percentage will decrease
The reason why Scheel’s goals against is one of the best at 1.77 goals per game, yet his save percentage is tied with Saville at .928 is because of the shot suppression skills of the team in front of him. UND is one of the most gifted teams in the country at shot suppression. Given that this team has to play Omaha for six of their final eight games, barring a perfect run of play, Scheel’s somewhat gaudy numbers will reflect the reality of where he is nationally. He is a top 20 goalie in the country that is made to look top eight because of the defense in front of him. Scheel’s biggest consistent concern is giving up high-danger rebounds that go in the back of his net. Omaha’s speed makes it harder for Scheel to get away with playing some rebounds how he has, thus the gap in his statistics whenever UND is unable to box out in front of the net.
Isaiah Saville will once again remind the nation how good he is this weekend
To have the numbers Saville has, facing more shots per game than Scheel, by a significant amount, is impressive. His lateral movement is close to NHL-ready now, and if his game can stay calm against the Fighting Hawks this weekend, than Omaha is in a much better position to use the inherent speed advantage they have over the Fighting Hawks to score more. Goalies that have any rebound control and lateral movement do well in most places, and Saville had enough of it to make his Mavericks the last team to beat UND in Grand Forks. Every indication of his resume this year shows he can do it again. When UND does have their game going, Saville’s ability to eliminate grade a looks through his positioning and movement will be the difference for Omaha this weekend.
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