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MEN'S HOCKEY: UND prepares for near must-win games this weekend against Miami

It was mentioned Wednesday afternoon that UND’s power play is clicking at an 8.3 percent success rate since January.

“I wouldn’t exactly say that’s click,” coach Dave Hakstol interjected.

That’s why you’ll likely see some changes on UND’s power play this weekend as it hosts Miami University in a two-game National Collegiate Hockey Conference series (7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday).

Hakstol and assistant coach Brad Berry will be making personnel changes to the units and possibly some structure changes.

“We’re going to change some things,” Hakstol said. “We’ve done well with the groups we’ve had in certain stretches, but this hasn’t been a good stretch for us. Saturday night was tough. Everyone was trying. The harder we tried, the worse things went for us all.

“We’ll give some guys some fresh looks and go back at it and work hard at it and turn the momentum the other way. As we ended (the weekend), the momentum was on the negative side. We’ll turn that to a positive side by working at it and giving some guys some fresh looks.”

When the team went to Christmas break, things were going all right on the power play. UND had converted 20.5 percent of its chances, which ranked in the top half nationally and among NCHC teams.

But since then, it has hit a dry spell — highlighted by last weekend’s 0-for-10 at home against Nebraska Omaha.

UND has converted on just three of 36 chances since the break (8.3 percent), which ranks 56th in the nation. Only three teams have been worse on the power play since Christmas — Michigan (8.1 percent), Sacred Heart (7.7 percent) and Cornell (3.8 percent).

Michigan and Cornell have had even more significant drops than UND. Both teams ranked in the top five nationally in power play conversions during the first half of the season.

As a whole, the national average has dropped quite a bit since January, too.

In the first half of the season, 26 teams were converting at 20 percent or better. Since then, only 17 are doing so.

“You’ve got to work for everything you get,” Hakstol said. “We’re playing against some pretty good penalty kills. I think the stat of (last) weekend is that as many good offensive players that were on the ice, the only power-play goal that was scored was off of somebody’s skate on a pass out of the corner. That was the only power-play goal scored all weekend. Teams are doing a good job on the PK.

“Our focus, I want to keep doing a good job on the PK and we need to improve a few areas on the power play.”

UND’s three power-play goals since Christmas have been scored by Michael Parks, Drake Caggiula and Dillon Simpson. Since tallying a pair of power-play points on Dec. 13 against Northern Michigan, UND’s leading scorer, Rocco Grimaldi, hasn’t notched a power-play point in nine games.

“It starts with faceoffs,” UND defenseman Jordan Schmaltz said. “We’ve got to win faceoffs. When they would send a puck all the way down the ice, our breakouts were poor and the execution wasn’t there. We were really off. It’s something we’ve got to work on because it’s going to be a big part of our team coming down the stretch here.”

One area of emphasis on the power play is improving zone entries and puck retrieval. UND struggled in both of those areas against the Mavericks.

“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Hakstol said. “We’re firstly responsible for that. We didn’t win enough puck battles. Once a couple things went wrong early in each power play, we tried to do a little too much individually outside of our structure. Usually, when you do that against a good penalty kill, things go in the wrong direction.”

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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