Nebraska Omaha coach Dean Blais coached two Gophers, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, when they were on the U.S. team in the World Junior Championships over the holidays in Canada.

"Nick, he is big and rangy and he has NHL all over him when he decides to go," Blais said. "Rau, on the hand, is dynamic. He has always been a scorer. He finds a way to get his points. Quick. He thinks the game really well.

"Nick can just blow it right by you or beat you one on one. Different type players, but certainly both effective."

He said knowing them better doesn't really help him as UNO's coach. "When you drop the puck, it is the players that are playing the game," Blais said, "and we will have to defend those guys as best we can.

"It helps that we are at home," Blais said. "Alex Hudson would have been our guy to go against Nick Bjugstad. He's big and strong and physical. We really don't have that type of team this year. We have to rely on our quickness. Our defensemen are good size, but our forwards are just young and we get a lot out of them through cycling and forechecking and creating something out of nothing."

Hudson was dismissed from UNO team halfway through the season.

Blais expects the Mavs to get 25-30 shots, even against the Gophers who have done well limiting opponents' chances. [Bemidji State had 13 shots a week ago.]

"Our style doesn't change from team to team," Blais said. "It is the other team's style that changes against us whether you are playing a team is more conservative, will try to trap, that blocks a lot of shots. Now Minnesota, from what I have seen this year, blocks a lot of shots.

"Instead of us getting our 35-40 shots, they might have 10 blocked shots, now you are down to 25-30. I am sure that is what you are seeing right now. Their defensemen and their forwards are blocking a lot of shots."


Blais laughs when asked if he sees himself coaching the Gophers some day. His name always comes up as a possible successor to Lucia -- who signed a contract extension this season -- when the Gophers are struggling.

"I am honored that people haven't forgot that I still [coach] and was a Gopher at one time," Blais said. "It makes me feel good because I am 61 years old right now. I will probably finish my coaching right here [UNO].

"It appears that Donnie Lucia is healthy again. For a while Donnie was sick and people were concerned about him getting over that.  More than anything, people weren't looking for Donnie's job, they were concerned about Don's health. As a coach and friend of Donnie's and looking over the Minnesota program, which I have done every year since I left, I look at it more as, I hope Donnie gets healthy.

"Winning and losing -- you have to win wherever you are at."


Blais said he expects an announcement on a new arena for the Mavericks in the next two to three months. UNO's contract with the CenturyLink Center runs out in two more years.

"It takes two years to build an arena," Blais said. "It [an arena announcement soon] would be perfect timing."

Blais said UNO has been working for three years on the proposed arena. "We have the plans and everything nailed down," he said. "And now it is just getting the pieces of the puzzle put together."

He said he expects 12,000 to 13,000 for the Gophers game tonight and, if UNO wins, maybe 14,000 the next night.

So people sometimes ask him why should UNO build an 8,000-seat arena?

He said it is all about revenue streams. "We don't get advertising," he said, "we don't get concessions, we don't get parking here. We don't have the branding because it still is Creighton basketball, too.

"We want our facility."