The recruitment of star players is never an easy thing. Numerous factors go into the selection process for athletes and their families. One hard part for Gophers head coach Don Lucia, is finding enough ice time for all his high-end recruits.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks start a weekend series tonight versus Lucia and his squad. The leading scorer for the Mavericks is a former Minnesota recruit that walked away from his commitment in order to receive the playing time that he desired.
The player is Ryan Walters. He was a state champion hockey player for Saint Thomas Academy and verbally committed to the University of Minnesota in 2007. He appeared to be a future star for the Gophers, but time was not on his side.
After a few years playing juniors in the United States Hockey League, Walters and family got fed up and moved his commitment to UNO in 2010.
A junior for the Mavericks, Walters leads the team with 16 points on the season. He will have a target on his back from the 10,000 hometown fans at Mariucci Arena over the weekend.
When asked about Walters’ homecoming game in Minnesota, head coach Dean Blais told the Omaha World-Herald “He’s got to be real disciplined. He committed there and changed his mind, and Minnesota fans know that. They get on him. He’s going to have to prove to them that he was worthy of putting on the big ‘M’ for him as a local boy.”
Coach Lucia will have to game plan for the Rosemount, Minn. native this evening, along with the rest of the Mavericks.
UNO is ranked No. 13 in the USCHO Division I men’s hockey poll. A tough test for this Maroon and Gold team that is coming off a couple good weekends.
Both Friday and Saturday’s games are scheduled for 7 p.m. CT starts and with the lack of NHL hockey in the Twin Cities, look for a raucous crowd in Stadium Village.
With the talent that the Mavericks bring to the table, a split of this WCHA series will be just fine at this early point of the season. Though home games for the No. 3 team in the nation should translate to wins even in conference.
Prediction: Friday – Minnesota 3, Nebraska-Omaha 4. Saturday – Minnesota 5, UNO 2.