Blais sees opportunity in upcoming season

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September 9th, 2011

UNO Hockey coach Dean Blais and his hockey team head into the year after last season’s early exit from the NCAA tournament. A 3-2 loss against Michigan in the first round of the playoffs was a tough way to end the year. Blais expects the team to grow from the loss and said the team had no time to sit and pout, as this year’s schedule would be tough. The Mavs roster only has three seniors, but Blais expects the freshman to make a big impression.

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“They will all make an impact like our freshman did last year,” said Blais. “Usually the freshman will play if you are doing your job recruiting.“

Blais mentioned Sophomore Forward Matt White as an example of what freshmen can do. White, who had 14 goals last year to rank second on the team, also added 11 assists for a total of 25 points. Blais named Alex Hudson as a senior to watch because of his leadership and discipline. Last year Hudson had four game-winning goals, and for his career, he was tied for fifth all-time with eight career game-winners at UNO. Blais also indicated Junior Forwards Terry Broadhurst and Brent Gwidt as players he expected big things from.

Coach Dean Blais expresses excitement over the upcoming season (Photo courtesy of UNO atheltics)

During the off-season, assistant coach Mike Gensal returned to Minnesota. Replacing Gensal as assistant coach is Brian Renfrew, an ex Western Michigan goalie, who spent the last eight years at Michigan State as assistant coach.

“I knew Brian from when he recruited for Michigan State, and being Associate Head Coach under Rick Comley, obviously he has a lot of experience,” insisted Blais. “He played goalie so that will help too, another guy with a different outlook on things, Mike Hastings played defense, and I played Forward, and you would like to have a guy at every position ideally.”

A series with Minnesota looms in late February, and after last season’s series which saw UNO leave Minnesota with two wins in two games, don’t be surprised to see an angry Golden Gopher hockey team arrive in Omaha, said Blais. Following that series is a visit from college hockey power house University of Denver. But those games aren’t the ones Blais is most worried about.

“I think one of the big ones is playing the defending National Champions, Minnesota-Duluth. And I think that is one of the ones we have chance to sell-out,“ said Blais.

The season starts with an exhibition against University of British Columbia on October 1st at 7pm at the CenturyLink Center Omaha. UNO follows that up with two different regular season tournaments: the Mutual of Omaha Stampede and the Alaska Gold Rush.

Blais was not yet ready to label his program as elite and said UNO has plenty of room to grow.

“I don’t know if consistently we are there yet, we have good players; we have good recruits coming in. Are we there yet? No not quite. We are up and coming but I don’t think we are there yet,” said Blais.

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