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Friday rundown: Four years later, UND returns to the X

The Fighting Hawks last played in the home of the Minnesota Wild on St. Patrick's Day 2018.

UND coach Brad Berry participates in UND's weekly shootout competition in Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, March 17, 2022.
Jim Rosvold / NCHC

ST. PAUL, Minn. — UND skated at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday afternoon.

It was the team's first time on the ice there in four years to the day.

Outside, St. Patrick's Day revelers walked around downtown St. Paul decked out in green and it felt like old times again at the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff.

The event wasn't held in 2020. It was moved to Grand Forks in 2021.

Now, it's finally back at its normal home, a place UND fans have flocked on this weekend dating back to the old Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five days.


"We're happy to be here," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We love playing at the Xcel Energy Center. These guys are probably a little too young to remember when we were here in the WCHA Final Five days, where it was a destination. People made this a weekend. They circled it on their calendars every year. It's a great atmosphere. It's a great venue. The city of St. Paul and the Xcel Energy Center do a great job.

"Josh Fenton and the NCHC run a first-class tournament here. It's a situation where we're grateful to be here and I'm just glad that these guys get one more year to experience it, and we're going to make the most of it."

Nobody on UND's roster has ever played a college game in Xcel Energy Center.

Most of the Minnesotans played in the state tournament in the building though.

"The 2012-13 state tournament," UND fifth-year senior Zach Driscoll said. "Do the math on that."

Driscoll played for Eastview High School at state as a sophomore . Mark Senden and Griffin Ness won a state title with Wayzata in 2016. Gavin Hain, who won't play this weekend, won a state title with Grand Rapids in 2017. Moorhead's Ethan Frisch finished runner-up to Hain and Grand Rapids.

"Growing up, coming to Wild games as a kid, the X was always a place you dream to play in one day," Driscoll said. "To be able to play a game here with a lot on the line, in front of a lot of family and friends, that's pretty special. But at the end of the day, we're here to do a job."

The Fighting Hawks (24-12-1) will take on Western Michigan at 7:37 p.m. Friday in a semifinal game. It will be televised on CBS Sports Network.


During the regular season, Western Michigan swept UND in Kalamazoo, Mich., and UND swept Western Michigan in Grand Forks.

"In the playoffs, special teams are huge, especially two teams that know each other — tight-checking two teams," UND center Connor Ford said. "Five-on-five chances are going to be hard to come by, so the game is going to be won or lost on the special teams battle."

College hockey notes

1. Senden notably landed on Jimmy Kimmel Live during his last trip to the Xcel Energy Center. Read about that here . During Senden's four-year career at UND, he has not said the phrase "and everything like that" one time during an interview. Not once.

"I think I kind of took that out of my vocabulary as soon as that video came out," Senden said, laughing. "I axed it real quick."

2. The NCHC Awards Banquet was held Thursday night at the Science Museum of Minnesota. UND had several winners.

Berry won the NCHC's Herb Brooks Coach of the Year award for the third year in a row ( story ).

Ford won the NCHC's defensive forward of the year award ( story ).

Ethan Frisch won the NCHC's defensive defenseman of the year award ( story ).


Senden won the NCHC's sportsmanship award.

And Midco Sports play-by-play man Alex Heinert won the NCHC's media excellence award. Heinert will be calling this weekend's games on CBS Sports.

3. One of the nicer moments of the banquet came when the NCHC had Minnesota Duluth goalie Zach Stejskal, who is fighting testicular cancer, present the goalie of the year award. When Stejskal stepped on the stage, all of the teams gave him a lengthy standing ovation. The award winner was his teammate, Ryan Fanti.

4. UND's practice participation update from Thursday: Jake Sanderson was missing. He won't play this weekend . He's week-to-week, which is not promising for the NCAA regionals. Gavin Hain remains out. Carson Albrecht practiced. Dane Montgomery did not.

5. With Tyler Kleven out of the lineup tonight serving a one-game suspension for accumulating three game misconduct penalties this season, Chris Jandric or Cooper Moore will likely move onto the top pairing with Ethan Frisch. That being said, defenseman coach Karl Goehring has shuffled pairings throughout games when UND has been shorthanded.

6. Western Michigan is looking to reach the NCHC title game for the first time in program history.

7. UND still has a shot to get a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament. I believe the Fighting Hawks need to win the NCHC tournament to do so. There are scenarios where UND wins the tournament and does not get a No. 1, too.

8. UND has been playing in a lot of one-goal games, but it has struggled to hit empty nets. The Fighting Hawks have seen an opposing goalie pulled seven times since February but they have not scored into the empty net during that span. The last empty-netter came in December at Colorado College.


9. Denver defenseman Antti Tuomisto has missed the last couple of weekends with an upper-body injury. Tuomisto skated at practice Thursday, but he did not participate in team drills. Tuomisto won't play Friday.

10. All four NCHC Frozen Faceoff teams are locks for the NCAA tournament. Elsewhere around the country, these teams need to win their tournament to get in: UConn, Colgate, Harvard, Clarkson, Bemidji State and all four teams in Atlantic Hockey.

Tale of the tape

3.14 (18th)Offense3.77 (4th)
2.57 (21st)Defense2.63 (22nd)
24.6 (11th)Power play25.8 (6th)
78.5 (39th)Penalty kill81.8 (24th)
55.3 (3rd)Faceoffs51.0 (20th)
51.1 (22nd)Possession53.9 (13th)
.899 (35th)Goaltending.910 (21st)

National rank in parenthesis

The focus: WMU G Brandon Bussi

Western Michigan goalie Brandon Bussi is attracting NHL interest for his size, athleticism and his ability to stop first pucks. Bussi does have a tendency to leave rebounds, though. UND won't beat Bussi clean too often, which means it needs to create chaos around the crease and pounce on rebounds. That will be a key to generating offense for the Fighting Hawks, who saw just how good Bussi can be in January.

The pick to click: Judd Caulfield

Judd Caulfield's first two collegiate goals came against Western Michigan. As a freshman, he scored four goals. Three came against Western. This season, he has scored three goals in four games against the Broncos. Caulfield is one player who can play through Western Michigan's physical style and deliver offense.

The call

UND is in a tough spot on the back end without both Sanderson and Kleven. But the Fighting Hawks did recently beat Western Michigan without Sanderson and Frisch in the lineup. It can be done. And this team seems to just find ways.
UND 4, Western Michigan 3

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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