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FROZEN FOUR: UND ready to get down to business

University of North Dakota players stretch out Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum1 / 24
University of North Dakota players huddle up at center ice Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum2 / 24
University of North Dakota goalie Matt Hrynkiw watches his teammates from the players bench during practice Wednesday, April 9, 2014, for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum3 / 24
University of North Dakota's Troy Stecher, left, grabs the stick of teammate Nick Mattson Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum4 / 24
University of North Dakota forward Rocco Grimaldi takes a breather during practice Wednesday, April 9, 2014, for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum5 / 24
University of North Dakota forward Stephane Pattyn practices a tip drill Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum6 / 24
University of North Dakota's Mark MacMillan, left, and Gage Ausmus wait their turn Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum7 / 24
University of North Dakota players hit the ice Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum8 / 24
University of North Dakota forward Rocco Grimaldi takes aim Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum9 / 24
University of North Dakota players go through drills Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum10 / 24
University of North Dakota players go through drills Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum11 / 24
University of North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol keeps a close eye on practice Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum12 / 24
University of North Dakota forwards Mark MacMillan, Drake Caggiula and Michael Parks line up for drills Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum13 / 24
University of North Dakota goalie Clarke Saunders cracks a smile Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum14 / 24
University of North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg readies for shootout drills Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum15 / 24
University of North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol runs practice Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum16 / 24
University of North Dakota forward Wade Murphy shoots on goalie Zane Gothberg Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum17 / 24
University of North Dakota coaches Brad Berry, Dave Hakstol, Dane Jackson and Karl Goehring watch shootout drills Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum18 / 24
University of North Dakota forward Stephane Pattyn skates in on Goalie Clarke Saunders Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum19 / 24
University of North Dakota forward Michael Parks gives a fist bump to fan Danny Cooper from Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, after practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum20 / 24
University of North Dakota forward Michael Parks receives ribbing from teammates Wednesday, April 9, 2014, after winning the shootout drill during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum21 / 24
University of North Dakota's Brendan O'Donnell shares a laugh with teammate Michael Parks Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum22 / 24
University of North Dakota's Mitch MacMillan takes a knee Wednesday, April 9, 2014, during practice for the NCAA Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum23 / 24
University of North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol along with players Zane Gothberg, Mark MacMillon, Stephan Pattyn and Dillon Simpson share a laugh with the media on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.David Samson / The Forum24 / 24

PHILADELPHIA – On Wednesday morning, the UND men’s hockey team ran up the famed stairs from the Rocky movie and saw the statue of the boxer.

Today, UND will try to play the role.

Fourth-seeded UND, the last team to get an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, will play the NCAA’s top seed, Minnesota, in a Frozen Four semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. in Wells Fargo Center (ESPN2). The winner will play for the national championship on Saturday.

Like Rocky, UND is the big underdog in this game. Las Vegas odds say that the Gophers are twice as likely to win the semifinal game, but that’s OK with UND.

“People on the outside expect us to have a deer-in-the-headlights look playing the Gophers, the No. 1 overall team,” UND junior defenseman Nick Mattson said. “But we’re approaching this like we’re going to throw everything we’ve got against them and give them our best effort.”

UND arrived in Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon and had a chance to knock out some tourist items. Many players went to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Others tried a Philly cheese steak, the local food of choice.

The team started to get down to business Wednesday afternoon with its first practice at Wells Fargo Center. The hour-long session was routine for the day before a game, including a team shootout competition that Michael Parks won.

 “We’re pretty loose,” freshman defenseman Paul LaDue said. “This team likes to stay loose. Obviously, game day will be a little more focused. We’ll be ready.”

The underdog role has helped keep UND loose. There haven’t been big expectations for this year’s team, which is a complete turnaround from its last trip to the Frozen Four in 2011.

There hasn’t been a lot of pressure. The other three teams in Philadelphia are No. 1 seeds. UND is a No. 4 seed. But it has a quiet confidence.

 “We went into (regional) weekend feeling kind of disrespected,” Mattson said. “All of the analysts were picking Wisco in a landslide. We’ve put together a great year and we earned our way here. Minnesota is a great team, but we think we are, too. Hopefully we can show that.”

Much of the attention at Wednesday’s press conference surrounded the rivalry between UND and Minnesota. The players seem ready to push that aside and get going on the semifinal matchup.

 “It’s been 10 days since we played now,” Parks said. “We’re getting a little antsy, but we’re excited. Everybody is ready to get going at it. Everyone is jacked up.”

Our team covers your team

The Herald plans exclusive print-only coverage of UND’s national championship hopes starting with Thursday's edition.

In print copies of the newspaper, loyal Herald readers will find a 16-page collector’s edition chronicling the team. Additionally, some stories by the Herald’s award-winning sports staff will be available only in the newspaper.

Fresh, exclusive online content — including video and additional photos — will be posted daily to www.grandforksherald.com.

For comprehensive Frozen Four coverage, pick up the Herald each day and visit online for stories, photos and multimedia by our team of four staff members.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 12th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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