The Mavericks are up and the Badgers are down in a wild WCHA race to the finish.
No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (18-12-2) vs. No. 16 Wisconsin Badgers (14-11-7) – 7:30 p.m. ET
Things haven’t gone as planned for the Wisconsin Badgers. They had to spend the first part of the season without Nic Kerdiles thanks to a silly NCAA suspension and they started off abysmal going 1-7-2 in their first 10 games. Once the calendar flipped to December, they caught fire going 8-0-3 over their next 11.
Things have slowed down in the second half though and after splitting with No. 2 Minnesota, they split at home with D-I newcomers Penn State. Their overtime loss on Monday dropped them to 26 in the Pairwise. Facing off with WCHA front-runners Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State in the final two weekends isn’t their (or anyone else’s) idea of fun except for maybe Badgers haters.
For Nebraska-Omaha, it’s been a steady roll through the season for them. Ryan Walters’ season has been outstanding and he’ll surely be in the hunt for the Hobey Baker Award. His point scoring abilities have paced the Mavericks all year and the help he’s given his teammates has been huge even with some minor drama in goal.
That said, they’re in a bit of a funk now have lost three of their last five games and sit three points back of SCSU for first in the conference. If they want a better opponent in the first round of the WCHA tournament they’ll have to fight with Minnesota, North Dakota, and Minnesota State as well as St. Cloud to do it.
NHL prospects to watch
If you’ve seen UNO on NBCSN before, you know all about junior forward Ryan Walters. He’s undrafted but second in the country in points with 45, trailing only St. Lawrence’s Greg Carey. The guys Walters is hooking up include sophomore forward Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh) and undrafted junior Matt White. Their top line is dynamic and senior defenseman Bryce Aneloski (Ottawa) can score from the point.
Others: Brent Gwidt (F – SR – Washington), Nick Seeler (D – FR – Minnesota), Tanner Lane (F – FR – Winnipeg), Brent Cooper (D – FR – Anaheim)
Wisconsin doesn’t have the usual bevy of big talent, but who they do have is pretty good. Junior forward Michael Mersch (Los Angeles) leads the team in goals and points with 17-9-26. While freshman Nic Kerdiles (Anaheim – pictured) missed 10 games, he’s produced well with 6-11-17 in 22 games.
Sophomore forward Joe LaBate (Vancouver), sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe (Buffalo), and senior blue liner John Ramage (Calgary) have been solid contributors. McCabe was also key in the Team USA World Junior gold medal win this year.
Others: Brendan Woods (F – SO – Carolina), Brad Navin (F – SO – Buffalo), Joe Faust (D – SR – New Jersey), Eddie Whittchow (D – FR – Florida)