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After six weeks on the road, UND women finally returns back to The Ralph

It was a flight to St. Louis.

Then a bus to Mankato, Minn.

Then a bus to Madison, Wis.

Then a short trip to Bemidji.

Then a bus ride to Duluth.

And another bus ride to Minneapolis.

After traveling for six consecutive weekends, the UND women’s hockey team has finally been able to stay at home all week -- a luxury it hasn’t had since early December.

UND is hosting Ohio State at 7:07 tonight and 1:07 p.m. Saturday in the final regular-season series.

Strangely enough, it’s the first two-game series at home since sweeping St. Cloud State on Dec. 10-11.

“It’s been a grind,” said UND coach Brian Idalski, whose team has gone 4-7 on the road since the St. Cloud State series. “Coming down the stretch here, you can tell the mind is willing and some of the compete and want is there, but in a couple of spots, our legs got pretty heavy.”

Senior Amy Menke added: “It’s been a little bit of a test for us, a challenge. It’s definitely harder to play away when the refs may not seem to be as much on your side and the fans really get into it. I think playing at home will help us a lot.”

UND will be in Grand Forks for each of the next two weekends.

It has already clinched fourth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings and will host a first-round series in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Its opponent is still up in the air. It could be St. Cloud State (26 points, at No. 2 Minnesota Duluth), Ohio State (25 points) or Bemidji State (22 points, vs. MSU-Mankato), depending on how those teams do this weekend.

UND is 3-1 vs. St. Cloud State this season, 0-1-1 vs. Ohio State and 3-0-1 against Bemidji State.

If the Fighting Hawks sweep the Buckeyes, it guarantees that they won’t have to play them first round. UND needs to win the WCHA postseason tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.

Although the Ohio State series won’t impact UND in the standings or in the national picture, Idalski thinks it could help the team get momentum heading into the playoffs.

“I think it’s most important to get a couple of good wins and get some confidence and feel good about ourselves,” Idalski said. “Feel fresh and make sure we’re energetic and excited about the first round of the playoffs.”

And being at home, finally, should help.

“Just being back and being in a routine, being a little more restful, not being on a bus, catching up on schoolwork, not worrying about taking exams before you go, leads to a less stressful work week,” he said.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th 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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