When it was suggested to Red Berenson that his team”s trip to Omaha this weekend might allow them to unwind with a change of scenery, the Michigan hockey coach scoffed.

“It”s not a pleasure or sightseeing trip,” Berenson said. “This is a serious hockey trip. We are going there with one thing on our minds playing our best hockey. We are not worrying about having fun they can do their school work in their free time, I want no distractions.”

If there was any question as to whether Berenson is guarding against a letdown after last Saturday”s momentous 4-3 overtime victory over Michigan State, it was answered convincingly.

Nebraska-Omaha head coach Mike Kemp professed some disappointment upon hearing Berenson”s cautionary tone.

“Darn,” he said. “I was hoping they would take us lightly.”

In the CCHA picture, Nebraska-Omaha is worthy of Michigan”s concern. The Mavericks (10-8-2 CCHA, 15-11-2 overall) currently reside in fourth place with 22 points just a point back of third-place Western Michigan.

For Michigan (13-4-2, 19-6-4), there are no more mulligans. The Wolverines hold second-place with 28 points, three back of the Spartans. In its climb to overtake Michigan State, Michigan got a healthy grip on the mountain with last week”s win.

“We know we have the makings of a great team, it”s just a matter of putting it together every night,” Michigan senior forward Bill Trainor said. “We have got to build on what we did Saturday and go from there.”

Last year, in only its first season in the CCHA, Nebraska-Omaha made it to the finals of the league tournament. This year, the Mavericks started a club so elite, only Michigan has since joined they beat Michigan State.

Appropriate, because the Mavericks are the poor man”s Michigan State. Nebraska-Omaha wins with a combination of dedicated forechecking and aggressive physical play. The Mavericks are a defensive-oriented team with only one player, David Brisson, in the top 20 in the league in scoring. The sophomore winger is seventh in the CCHA with 27 points, including 13 goals.

“Brisson is a guy who stepped in and contributed,” Kemp said. “He creates opportunities, though he”s not the flashiest player we don”t have a lot of go-to guys like Michigan.”

Kemp”s foremost concern among Michigan”s “go-to” guys is winger Andy Hilbert. Currently No. 2 in the nation in scoring with 50 points, Hilbert enters the weekend with a 16-game scoring streak.

“He”s a major concern,” Kemp said. “We know what he can do dynamically we are going to put one guy on him at all times.”

If Michigan is to keep pace with the Spartans, Hilbert will have to keep it going at no less than his current pace.

Six of Michigan State”s last nine games are against Northern Michigan, Alaska-Fairbanks and Ohio State teams ranging from the middle of the pack to the lower end of the CCHA.

Michigan still controls its own fate should the Wolverines win out in their remaining nine games, including two against their arch rival Spartans, they will win the league”s regular season title by a point regardless of what Michigan State does.

“Right now we know our goals,” center Mike Cammalleri said. “We”re staring them in the face it”s crunch time and there”s no room for error.”

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