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Where UND hockey stands with three weeks to go in the regular season

The Fighting Hawks host St. Cloud State this weekend, travel to Colorado College next weekend, then conclude with a home series against Omaha.

2022 Division I FCS Football Championship
UND defenseman Ethan Frisch (15) and Denver forward Carter Mazur (34) battle for the puck in a National Collegiate Hockey Conference game on Feb. 10, 2023.
Tyler Schank / Clarkson Creative Photography via DU Athletics

GRAND FORKS — One of the most overused — and incorrectly used — phrases in sports is "must win."

People frequently apply it to games that are by no means "must-win" situations.

In the college hockey world, you'll hear it as early as October and November. There's a difference between important games and must-win games.

For UND, games of late have been important ones.

However, if the Fighting Hawks want to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and host a National Collegiate Hockey Conference quarterfinal series, it's now hitting must-win territory.


There are still too many potential outcomes to project anything with 100 percent certainty, but according to several scenarios run by the Herald, this is it: If UND wins its final six regular-season games, it will likely be in good position to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large; if it does not, it will be in poor position.

The Fighting Hawks (12-13-4) host St. Cloud State this weekend, travel to Colorado College next weekend, then finish at home against Omaha.

It's an exceptionally tall task considering UND's longest winning streak this season is three, and on Friday, it will have to take on the Huskies without top-pair defenseman Tyler Kleven, who is serving a one-game suspension for his game misconduct penalty Saturday night.

UND allowed six and seven goals to St. Cloud State earlier this season when its other top-pair defenseman, Ethan Frisch, was sidelined with an injury.

The Fighting Hawks are currently No. 22 in the Pairwise Rankings and need to climb, at a minimum, to No. 15 to get an at-large.

There is, of course, one other path to the NCAA tournament — winning the NCHC tournament and getting the league's automatic bid.

To do that, UND needs to win four games — a best-of-three quarterfinal series, a semifinal game and the championship.

Denver achieved this during the first year of the NCHC in 2013-14. The Pioneers, No. 23 in the Pairwise, got an automatic bid by going on a run and beating Miami, No. 31 in the Pairwise, in the NCHC title game.


The odds of doing that improve if UND finishes in the top half of the NCHC and gets to play that quarterfinal series at home.

It will be a steep climb to get into the top four, though.

UND needs to make up 12 points on one of three teams — Western Michigan, Omaha or St. Cloud State — with 18 points available.

While the odds aren't particularly high, there is a glimmer of hope because UND plays two of the teams its chasing, so it can cut that 12-point margin in half in just two games.

"Right now, we know what we're playing for," UND captain Mark Senden said. "We need to play the best hockey we can to keep going in the right direction that we need to go. We have to use this as fire and motivation every practice here this week. We have to be dialed. We have to be sharp."

No. 6 St. Cloud State at UND

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: CBS Sports Network on Friday; Midco Sports on Saturday.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).
Stream: NCHChockey.com on Saturday only.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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