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Former Wausau West hockey star Conley leads Omaha to NCAA Tournament

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 5:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WSAW) -The NCAA tournament for men’s hockey begins this weekend, and there’s some extra Central Wisconsin flair in the field this year.

Former Wausau West star Kevin Conley has led the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks back to the tournament for the first time since 2015 and the fourth time in program history.

His senior season started unlike any other: A 10-game conference bubble in Omaha.

“We had a really successful pod, and we won a lot of games,” Conley says. “It was a fun time.”

A 6-3-1 start in that bubble was just enough to spark the Mavericks to an NCAA tournament bid, although that was far from a lock going into Sunday night’s selection.

“We had all the guys together and watching it on a movie theatre screen, so it was pretty fun to have everyone together,” says Conley. “But quite honestly, it was pretty nerve-wracking. Honestly, no one had any idea if we were going to get in or not.”

Conley isn’t just going to the NCAA tournament, he’s going as the captain of a team in maybe the most toughest conference, the NCHC, in college hockey.

“Yeah it’s definitely a huge honor, and grateful for the opportunity to represent the program in that way,” Conley says.

Nearly a decade after going to state as a Wausau West Warrior, Conley will take the ice for the first time at the NCAA Tournament Saturday night against Minnesota.

His time in Wausau helped lay the foundation for it all.

“I loved playing for West and (former head coach) coach (Pete) Susens and (current head coach) coach (Brian) Brandt,” Conley says. ‘They helped me a lot. They guided me through the process of going on to play at the next level, and I’ll be grateful for that for the rest of my life.”

Now the goal for Conley and his team is pretty simple: Enjoy the ride, and win four more games.

“Looking back on the year I came in (to Omaha), only having nine wins in that first season, it was tough,” Conley explains. “To finally get to the tournament, and feel a little rewarded, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

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