In an MTV
special chronicling the making of his latest album, singer-songwriter-guitarist-heartthrob
John Mayer compared making a record to running a race.
"You can't walk, you run," the Grammy-winner said. "And
when your legs hurt, you run even faster."
You won't find any gold-plated records hanging in the Nebraska-Omaha
hockey offices, but that doesn't mean Mavericks' coach Mike Kemp
can't relate to Mayer. UNO enters this weekend's series at Ferris
State one win shy of the 100th victory in program's history and,
of course, numbers like that make it easy for people like me to
"I don't look at the milestone personally for me. It's a
milestone for our program," Kemp said from Eppley Airfield
Thursday, minutes before his team was set to depart on a Michigan-bound
flight. "It's one of those things as I look back on...the
kind of conditions we started with in 1996 with no players, no
equipment and to think where we've been and what we've done and
where we're headed, it's personally gratifying."
It didn't take long for the Mavericks to make a name for themselves
in college hockey circles. By the time the team had wrapped up
its inaugural season in 1997-98, UNO had posted a home sweep against
WCHA stalwart Denver, reeled off an eight-game unbeaten streak,
upset Maine at Alfond Arena and filled the Omaha Civic Auditorium
to capacity for each of the team's 19 home games.
Kemp and Nebraska-Omaha are one win shy of the program's 100th
defining moment occurred in 2000, when the upstarts from the prairie
beat Northern Michigan in a CCHA first-round playoff series and
topped Bowling Green in the conference's play-in game to earn
a berth in the league's final four in Detroit. Not content with
just being at Joe Louis Arena, UNO recorded one of the biggest
upsets in CCHA history, bouncing Michigan in a semifinal match,
"It's really a point of pride that people nationally, when
they talk about UNO, they have an image of who we are," Kemp
said. "That was something I had hoped to accomplish."
Kemp and his charges endured a lean year in 2002-03 – inexperience
and injuries played a large part in the team's 13-22-5 mark –
and are off to a 2-7-1 start this season. The Mavericks are still
a green group, having started five freshmen and a senior against
visiting Northern Michigan last Saturday and bringing 16 freshmen
and sophomores to Big Rapids for this weekend's series with the
defending CCHA regular-season champions.
"College hockey is such an ever-changing business,"
Kemp explains. "It's a constantly evolving game and we still
want to grow our program over the next 100 wins. It's taken us
seven years to get to 100 wins. Now we want to do it in five years,
or four years."
Before the puck ever dropped in Omaha, Kemp – a former assistant
coach under Jeff Sauer at Wisconsin – envisioned the UNO
program as a mini-Wisconsin. Thus far, everything has lived up
"This is what I envisioned it to be," Kemp said. "A
revenue-generating, successful program that is a cornerstone of
the community and an entertainment [option] with a huge following
and excitement surrounding it."
Indeed, with a sparkling new arena and a lineup that is maturing
by the day, expect Kemp and the Mavericks to be running faster
than ever before too long.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
BOUNCE-BACK BUCKEYES – More often than
not, any discussion of Ohio State hockey centers around the off-season
departures of Ryan Kesler and R.J. Umberger. Resting atop the
CCHA standings, the Buckeyes have rebounded quite nicely from
the summertime losses. In fact, they've carried that resiliency
on the ice.
Five times OSU has lost thus far this year, and five times they've
bounced back with wins in the next game. Coach John Markell isn't
necessarily pleased that his team has dropped five games, but
says his players understand the importance of avoiding consecutive
"They hold themselves accountable," Markell said. "They
look in the mirror and say, 'Can I do better?'"
The recoveries the Buckeyes have made following defeats have been
impressive. Take last weekend, for example, when Ohio State was
blanked by Michigan in front of a national television audience
and the largest crowd to see a game at Value City Arena this season.
Despite giving up a goal to the Wolverines 21 seconds into Saturday's
series finale, the Buckeyes righted the ship to score five unanswered
goals to salvage a split with a 5-2 victory.
"We have nine seniors and a sprinkling of juniors. That weight
goes right on to their shoulders," Markell said. "If
we drop points during a weekend, they know we're not going to
be where we want to be."
Steering clear of losing streaks is the sign of a good hockey
team. Putting together winning streaks is nice, too, especially
when one is trying to maintain its first-place position in the
conference. And emerging with a victory on Friday is an excellent
momentum-builder, too. Unfortunately for Ohio State, T.G.I.F.
stands for This Game Is Futile – the Bucks are 2-5-0 on
Fridays. Markell spent this week working with his team on alleviating
going to try and break it down into small pieces," Markell
said of his approach to this weekend's non-conference tilts at
Cornell and Colgate. "Are we playing periods one, two and
three the same way we're playing four, five and six? We've gotta
be able to play six periods."
CEY SIDELINED SUDDENLY FOR 'SCOPE – Notre
Dame goaltender Morgan Cey is right back where he started the
season...on the shelf with an injured right knee.
who missed the first five games of the season after undergoing
an arthroscopy during the summer, felt his knee lock up during
a 3-1 loss to Michigan State Nov. 7. Team doctors took another
look at the joint and determined it wasn't healing properly, so
Cey went under the knife for a tune-up Wednesday.
procedure] went great," Fighting Irish coach Dave Poulin
told the South Bend Tribune. "It was exactly what
[the doctors] thought, and they went in and cleaned it out."
Poulin has freshman phenom David Brown – he of the 1.48
goals against average and 95.2% save percentage – to carry
the load until the holiday break. Cey is targeting the Everblades
Classic (Dec. 27-28 in Estero, Fla.) for his return to active
Great Weekend Getaway
Lake Superior State at Notre Dame (Fri.-Sat.): Lake
Superior State currently holds the longest unbeaten streak
in the CCHA at three games. Scoff if you must, but the last
time the Lakers had an undefeated stretch of more than two
games, George W. Bush was mismanaging the affairs of just
one state.. And the last time the Irish had the best goalie
in the CCHA... well, they've never had the best goalie in
the conference. But they do at this juncture. Don't expect
a lot of scoring in this series – LSSU averages 2.0
goals per game, while Notre Dame averages 2.56 goals per
contest. Don't expect a lot of power-play opportunities,
either. The Lakers and Irish average a combined 18.82 penalty
minutes per game. Ferris State alone averages 18.6 PIMs
While you're there: No football this weekend, as the
Irish wrapped up the home portion of the schedule last Saturday
against Brigham Young. The weather shouldn't be too bad
in South Bend, so stretch the legs and take a walking tour
of campus. The Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, the Basilica
and the Grotto are popular spots.
Tucked away in a remote corner of southwestern Ohio, Miami
doesn't get much recognition as a hockey school. But Goggin
Ice Arena was packed to the rafters for both games
of last weekend's series against Michigan State. On Friday,
the crowd was boisterous – two first-period goals
from the home team always helps – as spectators stood
three deep at the open areas at both ends of the ice.
In hockey, as in any sport, tempers will flare from time to
time. It's natural. That being said, Northern Michigan coach
Walt Kyle would probably be best served by not wearing his
emotions on his sleeve. His outburst following the Wildcats'
win against UNO Saturday – captured, complete with expletives,
by a reporter from the
Nebraska-Omaha student newspaper – was an embarrassment.
You have a right to be mad, Walt, but keep it in the locker
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Has Michigan State's goalie of the future
become its goalie of the present? Freshman Dominic Vicari started
both ends of last weekend's series at Miami and was the Spartans'
best player, making 38 saves in Friday's 4-2 loss to the RedHawks
and turning aside 28 shots in a 3-1 win Saturday. Vicari's play
relegated junior Matt Migliaccio, who had been splitting time
with the freshman, to the bench for the weekend.
played very well and he's earned the right to play," MSU
coach Rick Comley told the Lansing State Journal. "How
much he'll play or what we'll do, we'll just play it by ear."
Vicari rewarded his coach's confidence by giving up three goals
on 22 shots in a disappointing 3-2 home loss to Wayne State last
head coach at Ely H.S. may not get his team to Minnesota's state
tournament this season. But he boasts arguably the most impressive
playing resume among Gopher State bench bosses.
Lake Superior State alum Mark Vermette is in
his first season as the Timberwolves' head coach. The Couchenor,
Ontario, native was runner-up for the Hobey Baker Award in 1988,
when he scored 45 goals and 29 assists for Frank Anzalone's Lakers.
He also enjoyed a six-year professional career that included 67
games with the Quebec Nordiques spread over four seasons.
Ely is a city of about 2,000 people located in northeastern Minnesota's
Arrowhead region. Vermette makes his regular-season debut with
the Timberwolves Nov. 28.
• If it were smart, an auto maker would give Jack
and Judy Ortmeyer a car to document how the vehicle holds
up during prolonged journeys. After years of driving from their
home in Omaha to various exotic locales to watch sons Jake, a
former Miami defenseman, and Jed, a four-time letterwinner at
Michigan, ply their crafts.
The Ortmeyers were on the road again this week to see Jed, recently
summoned to the NHL by the New York Rangers, play in Chicago.
That's an eight-hour drive, not a big deal considering Ann Arbor
is roughly three hours past Chicago. Thursday, they drove eight
hours the other direction to catch the Blueshirts as they faced
Colorado in Denver.
"That's the way we grew up," Ortmeyer told the Newark
Star-Ledger. "We had to drive all over the country
to play hockey."
Ironic, then, that Jed Ortmeyer's drive caught the attention of
Rangers' general manager-head coach Glen Sather, who signed the
former Wolverine as a free agent last summer.
"He'd been playing very well (in Hartford), he'd been taking
the body well, being physical," Sather said. "And he's
• The nearly 10,000 fans in attendance at Friday's Michigan-Ohio
State game in Columbus witnessed a unique occurence at
Value City Arena.
No, the Wolverines' 4-0 shutout of the Buckeyes that night wasn't
a first. But during the first intermission, the OSU band took
to the ice to perform its famed script Ohio formation, complete
with an I-dotting courtesy of a Sousaphone player. The momentus
occasion was recounted Saturday morning on ESPN's College GameDay,
on campus for that afternoon's Ohio State-Purdue football game.
The line of the week comes courtesy of Michigan
State volunteer assistant coach Damon Whitten. Whitten, who skated
for the Spartans from 1997-2001 and scored 75 points during his
career, was not known for his Gretzky-esque abilities. Last week,
he noted that the ice surface at Miami's Goggin Arena has more
room behind the nets, making for a smaller neutral zone. When
asked by MSU radio play-by-play announcer Scott Moore if the configuration
was noticeable to players, Whitten explained, "It was good
for me. I could set up in my office behind the net."
Finally, another obscure Bowling Green note of the week:
There have been some exceptional NHLers who've come through the
Bowling Green program over the years – guys like Mike Liut,
Ken Morrow, Garry Galley, Rob Blake and Brian Holzinger, just
to name a few. But only one Falcon has been chosen in the first
round of the NHL Draft.
Peter Ratchuk was selected by Colorado with the 25th overall pick
in the 1996 entry draft. After spending one season at Bowling
Green, the Buffalo native joined the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec
Major Junior Hockey League. During the next five seasons, Ratchuk
played for three organizations and appeared in 32 NHL games, all
with the Florida Panthers. The 26-year-old now skates for Frankfurt
in the German Elite League.
A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this