Jake Sanderson returns to Grand Forks; Mark Senden expected back in lineup for senior weekend
UND still won't have everyone back for a two-game series against Western Michigan in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
GRAND FORKS — A UND hockey team that has been decimated by injuries is slowly inching its way in the right direction.
Captain Mark Senden was back to work Wednesday, going through every practice drill. So was defenseman Brady Ferner. Meanwhile, Jake Sanderson participated in his first UND hockey practice since departing for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing last month.
UND coach Brad Berry said Senden, a forward, and Ferner are both "100 percent all in" for this weekend's two-game series against Western Michigan in Ralph Engelstad Arena (7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday).
It will be especially meaningful for Senden, who will be honored on Senior Night during the series finale.
Senden hasn't played since Feb. 5 against Omaha, when he left the game in the second period with an injury. He sat out the last four games, though he was dressed Saturday night at Minnesota Duluth to provide support on the bench.
"Obviously, he'll play a ton," Berry said of Senden. "He plays in every situation. He'll add value to whatever line he's on here. It's great to see him. He's been going into full contact drills and participating in everything we have here."
Sanderson sustained an upper-body injury during his lone game at the Olympics, missing Team USA's final two contests.
Berry indicated the defenseman's injury isn't as bad as initially feared, though he won't play against the Broncos.
"He's back and he was skating today, so that's a good sign," Berry said. "But he's probably just a few days out. The good sign is he looked really good on the ice today. I think it's probably closer than what we expected for his return. Whatever that looks like will be dependent on the next few days moving forward. He'll be unavailable for the weekend, but great to have him back, skating and doing the majority of our drills."
UND's leading scorer Riese Gaber missed last weekend's series finale at Minnesota Duluth due to an undisclosed injury he sustained while crashing into the boards during Friday's series opener.
Gaber is questionable for this weekend's series.
"He's day-to-day," Berry said. "Not ruled out for the weekend. He's getting close here as well. Tomorrow brings another day and we'll see where that's at."
UND senior winger Gavin Hain will remain sidelined with a leg injury.
Berry said he will be giving some other players who are banged up maintenance days this week at practice.
Four to be honored on Senior Night
Senior Nights have become complicated since the NCAA declared the 2020-21 season does not count against anybody's eligibility.
Everyone who suited up that season can technically play five years of college hockey. So, who do you honor?
This year, UND will recognize four — Senden, Hain, forward Connor Ford and goalie Zach Driscoll.
Ford and Driscoll are UND's only fifth-year seniors who exhaust their eligibility at the end of this season.
Senden and Hain are fourth-year seniors who could use their COVID-19 season to come back next year.
"It's a situation where we'll talk about that at the end of the year," Berry said. "I mentioned to both those guys, those are absolutely guys that we would love to have back in our lineup next year. But things transpire where there could be pro opportunities or there could be situations where they're moving on.
"I think, for sure, we wanted to acknowledge they finished their degree. They competed their education in getting their degree and we want to honor them for that."
No. 6 Western Michigan at No. 7 UND
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV: CBS Sports Network (GF Ch. 314, 635 HD) on Friday; Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD) on Saturday.
Stream: NCHC.tv on Saturday only.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).
Of note: UND has a one-point lead on Denver atop the NCHC standings in the chase for the Penrose Cup. Both teams have four games left.