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TOM MILLER: UND picks up where it left off in regular-season play

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The UND men's hockey team's trip to Vancouver last weekend wasn't a pleasure adventure as some expected.

North Dakota's two exhibitions were a flop. UND lost to British Columbia in overtime and had a win that felt like a loss the next night against Simon Fraser -- essentially a club hockey program that was drubbed 8-1 by Princeton the night before.

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The question entering Friday's regular-season matchup with Colorado College was whether those exhibitions hinted at long-term issues for the second half or if UND could leave the bad mojo at the border and continue to ride a five-game regular-season winning streak.

The answer? It was as if there was no gaffe in the Great Northwest.

UND picked up right where it left off in regular-season play by picking up a 5-3 win over the Tigers at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

For all of the fan angst over UND's play in Canada, it's hard to believe this team hasn't lost a game that matters since late November.

"There was zero panic in our locker room," UND junior Stephane Pattyn said. "We knew we didn't play well and did a lot of video in practice to figure out what we needed to do to be successful in the second half. Tonight was a good benchmark."

UND spent 27 days between regular-season games, last earning a home sweep over Northern Michigan in mid-December. The lackluster results in British Columbia didn't zap any of that momentum UND had built up prior to Christmas break.

"We weren't happy with Friday (against British Columbia)," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "We weren't real proud of our effort. But you put that behind you. That's the beauty of exhibitions. Exhibitions can be hard to get up for at any time, but especially during the middle of a season. That was all left behind in Vancouver."

Hakstol even went as far as to say the two exhibition games were a positive.

"We actually had a real positive, productive weekend and that helped us this week," he said. "As soon as we walked out of the rink Saturday night, we felt right away that we left the weekend virtually healthy and played two games and got rid of some of the rust."

Pattyn also felt the two exhibition games were a key for the team to hit the ground running against Colorado College, which fell behind 4-1 on Friday before battling back.

"We definitely got up to game speed," Pattyn said. "That was the whole purpose of last weekend. If we didn't do that, tonight would have been a different story. The first five minutes we were very good because of last weekend and our week of practice."

In the end, UND's win over the Tigers is a reminder that exhibitions are just that and nothing more.

"We played pond hockey," Hakstol said of the Vancouver trip. "Some of that is to be expected."

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Tom Miller
Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 10 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 
(701) 780-1121
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