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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With Nebraska-Omaha head Coach Mike Kemp

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, October 10 at 3:00 ET, Nebraska-Omaha Head Coach Mike Kemp pays a visit to "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com.

Mike Kemp

Mike Kemp took Nebraska-Omaha where they had never been before, leading the Mavericks to their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid in 2005-06.

The only coach the program has had sonce joining Division I, Kemp begins his tenth season behind UNO's bench. For Kemp, coming to UNO was an opportunity to finish a job that he had started more than 20 years ago. That was when the graduate of Gustavus Adolphus came to the school as the head coach of the club hockey program. Hopes for club hockey to grow into a varsity program were slashed after one year, however, and Kemp returned to his alma mater, where he began a 20-year career as an assistant coach.

Kemp spent five years as an assistant at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minnesota, then went to the University of Wisconsin in 1981 where he spent one year as an assistant under Bob Johnson. After a year as an assistant at Illinois-Chicago, Kemp returned to the Badgers in 1983 under new head coach Jeff Sauer, where he stayed until rejoining UNO in 1996.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Mike won't be stopping by until 3:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, October 10th, and his time will be limited, so feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room and the second of our "Tuesday @ the Rink." We're waiting to be joined by Nebraska-Omaha head coach Mike Kemp.
CSTV.com Moderator: We now have Coach Kemp with us.
Coach Kemp: I'm flattered that you take the time out of your day to ask me questions. I appreciate your interest, and hope this is a good time for you.

Tim from Omaha: Coach, what are your expectations for the coming year? Do you expect to have a good chance to make 06-07 the Mav's 2nd NCAA tournament appearance in a row?
Coach Kemp: I think my perspective going into the year is optimistic. With the return of Scott Parse for his senior year, we have as strong a team as we've ever had in our program, so it is an optimistic year for us. Sitting here today, it's very easy to be optimistic regarding our potential to make another NCAA tournament, but the season is long. Success depends upon so many factors - injury, illness, bad bounces, referee calls - that the season will really rest on the breaks you get and what happens over the next six months.

Kellie (Stoughton, MA): Congrats on getting to the NCAA's last year. I wanted to know the impact the Boston University fans had on your players, especially the goalie. There has been alot of noise about the way the fans acted that weekend and some of your players looked visably shaken on the ice from the crowd. Do you think that had anything to do with the outcome of the score?
Coach Kemp: First of all, I appreciated their fans. I thought they were enthusiastic. I thought they were boisterous, and I thought they did a great job of supporting their team. I don't believe that their fan behavior had any impact on the outcome of the game. It was our first attempt at making an NCAA tournament and I think anybody who's been through that process knows that it is a learning experience. You have to really elevate your game to compete in that type of game, and our players learned from that experience what it will take the next time we have the fortune of getting there. Our players play in front of large and boisterous crowds throughout the year, in our own building - where we're one of the leaders in attendance - and elsewhere in our league. Trust me, it wasn't any more intimidating from a fan perspective than going into Yost Arena at Michigan, Munn Arena at Michigan State, or any of the other arenas in the CCHA.
CSTV.com Moderator: Speaking of intimidating environments...

Donald: What do you anticipate from your two opponents this weekend at the Nye Frontier Tournament in Anchorage?
Coach Kemp: We expect it to be a very challenging situation, playing in that tournament. Obviously, Colorado College has been one of the leaders in the nation in the last several years, and this will be our first opportunity to face them in a game. We know they're a very skilled team, which will play a very up-tempo game, so that will be a challenging contest for us. The second contest facing Alaska-Anchorage will also be our first game against them. Both of those teams play on Olympic ice, and so, as well as facing our opponents, it will also be a challenge adjusting to the Olympic ice sheet. I've been very impressed with the way Alaska-Anchorage has run this tournament. It's very professional, and we're thrilled to have the opportunity to go up there and compete in a tournament that is so well run.

MavRick (Omaha): Coach, you've recruited another class of small speedsters with big scoring numbers to UNO. But you've also added Nick Fanto, a big guy with more modest statistics, presumably as an in-the-corners grinder. Are you worried that about your team's ability to be physical?
Coach Kemp: You're always worried about your ability to fend off the physical play of your opponent. It's more important to be able to maintain the possession of the puck. The strength becomes an issue in the sense of controlling the puck. I'm far less concerned with the size of the dog in the fight than I am with the size of the fight in the dog, and I believe we have a feisty group of youngsters who will handle themselves well in physical competition. I think with the new refereeing objectives of opening up the game and eliminating obstruction and fouls that affect free flow of the game, I think we may be a little ahead of the curve with smaller, faster, more skilled players.

Fishman Omaha: So why the fish after the first goal? (Coaches take) Will it ever go on the road? (NCAA'S)
Coach Kemp: No, it won't ever go on the road, but it's a fun tradition here that actually started in the third year of the program. I was with a group of boosters recounting traditions at other universities, and telling the story of what happened to me at Alaska-Anchorage when I was an assistant at the University of Wisconsin. Standing on the bench, we had just given up a goal and I was furious at our defenseman who turned the puck over in our defensive zone. As I glared at him on his way to the bench, all of a sudden I found myself face down behind the bench, because the fan who was going to throw the halibut or whatever it was onto the ice didn't make the ice, and it was heavy enough that it knocked me right down. The group of fans I told this to thought this was hysterical. The next home game, I found after our first goal a fish was thrown to the ice, and it has just carried on since then. One of the things about starting a program from scratch like we did here at UNO is establishing traditions that fans can get behind, and in our search for our own, we borrow from others, but the unique thing that we have that no other rink has that I've seen yet is the way we pick up the fish. One of our other fans builds custom racing go-karts. He custom built a mini-Zamboni on a go-kart frame and drives it out onto the ice to pick up the fish after every first goal of a home game, much to the delight of the crowd. He does wheelstands and other different assorted things on the way to pick up the fish in a fish net. We're in the entertainment business here, and making the game entertaining for the fans is an important part of what college hockey should be all about.

Brett, LaVista: Which of the returning Mavs do you feel has improved the most over the off-season?
Coach Kemp: Well, to ask me that without having played a game is a little tough right now. Ask me in about four hours after we've played our exhibition game! But, given the question, I'd have two say two returners who appear to be poised for excellent seasons are sophomores Dan Charleston and Adam Bartholomay, who both return in great shape and ready to have breakout seasons. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Juha Uotila, who appears to have adjusted to the North American game, and has matured immensely over the summer.

Julia (Omaha): What is the biggest improvement, you as a coach, are hoping to see this season?
Coach Kemp: Last year, we were amongst the leading scoring teams in the nation all year long. Unfortunately, we were not as good defensively as many of our teams have been in the past. The two areas of focus that we need to improve on, I believe, are our overall defensive play as a team and our ability to improve our penalty killing. Those two areas affected our outcome in many games a year ago, and for us to have success in the long run, those areas must improve.

Randy (St. Louis): Coach we await your arrival in St. Louis this April. Your team was pretty mediocre on the power play last year despite putting up big offensive numbers overall. Is that a focus for this years team?
Coach Kemp: Well, obviously, special teams play such a role in today's game with the number of penalties that are being called. It is important to produce points on the power play. Games will be decided by your success in that area. We're diligently working toward improving that aspect of our team. Returning Scott Parse should help with that endeavor, along with the addition of freshman defenseman Ed DelGrosso, who was among the leading scoring defensemen in the USHL a year ago.

jy (ann arbor): I guess you know what team I root for so my question pertains to Michigan. Would you go out on a limb and say Jack Johnson is the best player in the ccha and what are your team's keys to stopping him and the rest of the Wolverines when you come into Yost in November. I'll be there so thanks and good luck this year
Coach Kemp: I appreciate your question, and I appreciate your loyalty to your hometown team, but personally, we return the CCHA Player of the Year from a year ago in Scott Parse, and it is my opinion that Scott Parse is the finest player in the CCHA, but Jack Johnson is an outstanding talent who is amongst the best players in the country at his position, and he will be a force to reckon with when we come to Michigan on Novemeber 10-11. The keys to stopping Michigan are to make sure that you play them 5-on-5, you don't give them an opportunity to get wound up offensively by making sure you check them very tightly, and you have to take care of the few opportunities that they'll relinquish to you to score. You have to take care of those chances.
CSTV.com Moderator: That is all the time we have this afternoon with Coach Kemp.
Coach Kemp: Thanks to everybody for participating. I hope that my answers gave you some insight into our program and our team. I'm looking forward to a tremendous hockey season, not just in Omaha but across the nation, and I hope that if any people on this chat are at a game, come down and say hello.
CSTV.com Moderator: That'll do it for this week's "Tuesday @ the Rink" chats. Be sure to keep checking back to CSTV.com for info on next week's guests.

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