Blackhawks prospects part of emerging Nebraska-Omaha hockey program

Blackhawks prospects part of emerging Nebraska-Omaha hockey program

When you think of college hockey programs, a few readily come to mind. North Dakota, the University of Minnesota and Boston University are among them.

And then there’s the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Wait, where?

“That’s what a lot of people say, but you’d be surprised,” said Omaha junior-to-be Jake Randolph, who was invited to the Blackhawks’ prospect camp this week. “Hockey’s been big in Omaha lately. We just got a new arena last year, and that took off, bringing all ages into hockey. It’s pretty cool what’s going on in Omaha.”

No, it doesn’t leap off the college hockey page like some of the others. But for Omaha players Randolph, Luc Snuggerud and Fredrik Olofsson, UNO is where they’ve been cutting their college hockey chops, and the school has gotten a taste of the national stage.

The Mavericks made their first NCAA Frozen Four appearance in 2015, losing to Providence, the eventual title winner, in the semifinals. While Omaha struggled last season, players still feel the program, which began in the late 1990s, is headed in the right direction.

So what made these guys choose Omaha?

“I wanted to be a part of a hockey team that was up and coming, and I knew if I went there I would have a big role right away. That was a big part of it,” Snuggerud said on Monday. “We have a good group of guys down there; we work hard. We’re more blue-collar than white-collar guys. I kind of like that mentality, just working hard every day and getting better.”

Olofsson said the team is drawing interest and big crowds. The Mavericks started playing at their new home, Baxter Arena, prior to last season, and coach Dean Blais said the team is fourth in the country in attendance behind Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

“It’s getting pretty big out there,” Olofsson said. “When you think Nebraska-Omaha you don’t think too much hockey, but we’re on the rise. We’re looking to have a good team this next year and I’ll be going into my sophomore season, so it’ll be fun.”

Speaking of coaches, the Mavericks have a great one in Blais, who coached the University of North Dakota to titles in 1997 and 2000.

“We want to win championships like we did in North Dakota. There’s a way to do that. Omaha’s a good sized town. We’re in a good drawing area, but the staff and the commitment to the players help us get better,” Blais said. “A lot want to get drafted and get better. We want to make sure they get their education first and then develop hockey skills.”

The Blackhawks prospects, including Snuggerud, have done that. Snuggerud, who the Blackhawks selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, said he’s improved his defense over his past two seasons in Omaha. Blais concurred.

“Luc’s a lot like Duncan Keith. Obviously Keith’s in a league by himself, but (Luc) likes to get the puck in,” Blais said. “He’s a good passer, but he’s getting more confident in the offensive zone. He didn’t do that much his first year. He needed more time to get stronger, more confident, and he’s developed that. He’ll have a heck of a year with us. He’ll get a chance to put that Blackhawks jersey on in the next couple of years.”

Omaha had a tough 2015-16 — the Mavericks started off well but faltered in the second half, finishing 18-17-1. But the team still likes the direction in which it’s going and is looking to build off the success of their 2015 Frozen Four appearance. Blais said the Mavericks return 20 players for the 2016-17 season. The University of Nebraska-Omaha doesn’t have a long hockey tradition, but it’s starting to make its mark.

“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back. We usually have a pretty young team, so it’ll be a good year. We have a good goalie coming in and some young players just picked up,” Snuggerud said. “We’re going to have a lot of talent, so hopefully it’ll all come together.”

Blackhawks honor Dave Bolland with “One More Shift” Friday

Blackhawks honor Dave Bolland with “One More Shift” Friday

Former Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland will be honored with “One More Shift” on the ice at United Center this Friday prior to Hawks matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Bolland will stand with the team during the National Anthem and skate on ice in full gear. Along with time on ice, the United Center will also honor Bolland by showcasing his career highlights throughout the arena.

The Blackhawks will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their 2010 Stanley Cup win at five games this season, coinciding with “One More Shift” nights to honor individual players.  The United Center Atrium doors will open at 4pm, giving fans a chance to look at the interactive photo opportunities and historical items on display. Bolland will participate in a Q&A in the atrium at 6:30 p.m. before he hits the ice.

Dave Bolland was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2004 and spent ten seasons of his NHL career in Chicago. Bolland played with the team during two Stanley Cup championships, scoring the game-winning goal in the final minute of Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins. Bolland played in all 22 playoff games in 2010, garnering 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) which shared fifth among Blackhawks skaters in the postseason. Bolland recorded his best season of his career during the 2008-09 campaign with the Blackhawks, skating in a career-high 81 regular-season games and recording career highs in goals (19), assists (28) and points (47).

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

The Blackhawks finally got on the board for the season and did so in front of the 500th consecutive capacity crowd at the United Center.

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the impressive performance by the Blackhawks against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers and discuss how Jeremy Colliton’s message got through to Alex Nylander and the rest of the team.

Plus, after an impressive performance in net, should Corey Crawford get the next game vs. the Blue Jackets? And what does the future have in store for Kirby Dach? Jamal makes a bold prediction.

0:54 – Blackhawks finally show urgency in 2nd period

2:47 – Penalty kill starting to show some life

5:00 – Thoughts on the Shaw/Strome/Kane line

6:43 – Blackhawks eliminating some defensive breakdowns

9:23 – Big rebound performance from Corey Crawford

11:36 – Colliton’s message to Alex Nylander got through

15:21 – Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise early on

17:15 – Dominik Kubalik’s impressive performance

18:31 – Will Kirby Dach be with the Blackhawks all season?

22:42 – Does Crawford or Lehner start vs. the Blue Jackets?

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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