The University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey team began their season last weekend by finishing second in the Ice Breaker Tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. As expected, UNO dominated an Army team who won just four games last season and has 13 freshman on the team. The Mavericks were able to hang with No. 14 Notre Dame in the championship game of the tournament, but fell short losing 3-2.
There is much anticipation for the Mavericks in their third and final year in the WCHA, which will be no more after this season due to conference re-alignment. UNO is picked to finish 8th in the conference according to the WCHA guru’s at www.uscho.com. The Mavericks will rely heavily on defense this season as they lost two of their top three scorers from a year ago. (Wonder if Terry Broadhurst and Jayson Megna are regretting the decision to jump to the NHL now?)
So in this final year before college hockey goes through a major shift, with a little help from my friends at www.mavpuck.com, the ultimate UNO Hockey fan site, lets take a look back and construct the Maverick All-Time Team.
The Ultimate Scoring Line
Scott Parse (2003-2007) – Parse is the All-Time leader in career goals (79), assists (118) and points (197). Parse was named 2005-06 CCHA Player of the Year, a All-American in both 2006 (First Team) and 2007 (Second Team). During the 2005-06 season Parse has 20 goals, 41 assists and became the school’s first Hobey Baker finalist while leading UNO to their first-ever NCAA tourney berth. Parse may be best known for his improvisation skills and knack for the net.
Bill Thomas (2004-2006)- Thomas was probably the best pure goal scorer to come through the ranks at UNO. He was a linemate of Parse before either ever came to UNO and when he joined the Mavericks the two skated as one. Thomas still holds the record for goals in a season (27) and probably would have owned Parse’s goal scoring records had he stayed in college. In two seasons, Thomas racked up 46 goals and 90 total points. But after the NCAA tournament loss in 2006, as the story goes, Thomas got a call from Wayne Gretzky to come play for the Phoenix Coyotes, and you just don’t say no to Wayne Gretzky.
Andrew Wong (2000-2004) - Wong did get to play one season with Scott Parse, but putting him together with Parse and Thomas would have been deadly. Wong still ranks No. 4 all-time on the team in assists with 80 for his career, and he is one of only three Mavs to have ever recorded a hat trick and two assists for a 3-2-5 line in one game. Wong could flat our skate and it would have been fun to watch him feed Thomas and Parse all day.
Eddie Del Grosso (2006-2010) - Del Grosso is UNO’s all-time leading scoring defenseman and was the point man for a Maverick power play line that posted an NCAA best 53 power-play goals on the season along with a national-leading 24 percent success rate on power-play chances during the 2007-2008 season. He still ranks third all-time with 85 assists in his consistent career.
David Brisson (1999-2003) - Brisson was the first “prolific” scorer to skate for the Mavs. He still ranks No. 2 on the team all time for goals scored in a career with 65, fifth in assists with 79 and third all time in scoring with 144 points. Brisson was paired up most of his career with David Noel-Bernier as the Quebec Connection and with Wong and made up a pretty wicked line. Brisson’s fighter attitude and passion for the game helped lead the 1999-2000 team to Joe Louis Arena and a magical run to the championship game.
Jeff Hoggan (1998-2002)- Hoggan will be forever known as the architect that blew the roof off the Civic Auditorium on the historic “Tuesday Night”. Hoggan always played above his head as was the premier rally guy on those early teams. Hoggan ranks seventh in all-time points, but will always be No. 1 in the hearts of Mav fans. Known in the pros more for his five-for-fighting prowess than as a scorer (just two goals in the NHL) , Hoggan played a few seasons with the Blues, Bruins and most recently Coyotes.
Alex Nikiforuk (2003-2007) - With is hair flowing out from behind his helmet, Nikiforuk always played bigger than his 5’8″ stature. Nikiforuk had similar qualities to another undersized winger, Theo Fluery, with his fiery play and demeanor, Alex belongs on this list. Best known for bringing UNO a win at home over Michigan (see video below), Nikiforuk ranks 8th all time in all three scoring categories.
Greg Zanon (199-2003) – Although Zanon ranks second all time for defenseman in scoring at UNO, Zanon was the most prolific D to ever play for the Mavs. A two-time second-team All-American, Zanon was notorious for rifling shots from the point on set plays, especially during power plays, as I dubbed it in 2000, Zanon’s Cannon. Zanon was one catalyst of a rivalry that began in 2002 with Northern Michigan (detailed here), and boiled over into “Fishgate” in 2003, which Wildcat head coach Walt Kyle blew up into a “chicken shit” tirade after a game in Omaha.
He was there when UNO closed “The Aud” and he left his mark on it, for sure. He has the longest career in the NHL of any Maverick, still playing for the Boston Bruins. Zanon is still legend to this day at UNO and a related tagline “Zanon isn’t growing a beard. Apparently when throwing your body in front of and blocking several 90-mph pucks, your face sweats hair” is still used to this day by at least one member of the Mavpuck fan board.
Dan Ellis (2000-2003)- Clearly the most talented netminder to ever don the pads for the Mavericks. Most recognized for his hermit-crab position, crawling into the net when play was away, Ellis played just three years with the Mavericks but holds nearly every major goaltending record with the Mavericks, and boasts seven shut-outs.
Dan Ellis was the first UNO player to play in the NHL, winning his debut game with the Dallas Stars in 2004. His second start didn’t come until the 2007 with the Nashville Predators, but he earned his first NHL shutout, winning 3-0. Ellis has impressive shutout streak of 233:39 over the course of four games while in Nashville and helped lead the Preds to the playoffs that year.
This is a team of Mavericks who weren’t superstars on the ice, necessarily, but represented UNO hockey in the best light possible at all times, Good Guys to Know.
Jason Cupp (1997-2001) – One of the original Mavericks, Cupp won the prestigious Ilitch Humanitarian Award in 2001, the first UNO player to win the honor.
Mike Eickman (2003-2007) - Only UNO player to win CCHA Scholar Athlete of the year, and he won it twice.
Jared Kaufmann (2005-2009) – Not only is Kaufmann first or second in almost every goaltending category in the history of UNO, Kaufmann became the second Mav to win the Ilitch Humanitarian Award in 2009.
Honorable Mentions and Founding Fathers
Bryan Marshall (2004-2008) – Marshall ranks second on the all-time list in points with 150 and assists with 101. Partially a product of the team around him with Parse and Thomas, but held his own with Mick Lawrence as a line mate his senior year.
Derek Reynolds and Jeff Edwards (1997-2000) - THE quintessential original Mavericks. These two helped Mike Kemp found the team and their senior season, where UNO won their first conference playoff series at Northern Michigan, beat Bowling Green in the play in, Michigan at the Joe and made it to the conference champtionship is one of the most celebrated in Maverick lore. Reynolds was a bad-ass in his own right and Edwards captained a team that has overachieved like no other UNO team.
Daniel Sammuelsson (1998-2000) – Still in my mind the best pure defender to ever play for UNO. You could count on Sammuelsson’s consistency and Kendall Sidoruk loved having this kid in front of him.
Andrej Suster (2010-present) - This 6-foot-8 beast of a defender from the Czech Republic is in the mold of Sammuelsson. Big, nasty and talented. The Mavs are hoping to get some scoring from Sustr this year, but either way, he’s coming along in becoming a Mav great.
Kendall Sidoruk (1997-2000) - Another Maverick original with nerves of steel. Personally, there were times I flinched with each shot that came his way, but when the time came, Sid recorded some of the biggest wins in early Mav history.
A huge thank you to those on www.mavpuck.com for assisting me with this list, it was really fun to put together.
The season continues as UNO hosts their aforementioned old rival Northern Michigan this weekend. Expect the Mavboni to be in full effect when that first fish hits the ice this weekend. Rumor is it’s going to be a barracuda.