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UND hopes to turn fortunes at the Target Center this weekend

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference kicked off its postseason hockey tournament, the Frozen Faceoff, in 2014.

There were some issues that first year—the boards, the glass, the ice and the locker rooms. The league has worked to fix all of those issues.

But for the UND men's hockey team, there has been a much bigger issue: winning.

While UND has reached the Frozen Faceoff in all four years of its existence, it is 0-3 in semifinal games and 1-4-1 overall.

It has never played in the championship game at the event and not a single player on the current roster was on the ice for UND's lone win in the Target Center in 2014.

The Fighting Hawks hope to turn that around at 7:38 p.m. Friday, when they take on No. 1-ranked Denver in the semifinals in downtown Minneapolis.

"It's a place we haven't had too much success the past couple years," junior goalie Cam Johnson said. "We're in a little different spot this year, where we're playing with our lives on the line. We don't have that cushion. I think that's going to be a good thing for us. We've been playing well with our backs against the wall. Maybe this year is our year to do a little bit better at the Target Center than we have."

UND (20-14-3) is still looking to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. It can do that with one win this weekend, according to Pairwise Rankings experts.

In the past two years, the Fighting Hawks knew they had secured a spot in the NCAAs before reaching the Target Center.

"One of our goals is to make it there," UND senior defenseman Gage Ausmus said. "We're in a little different situation this year going in. We feel we need to win a couple games to help us for the national tournament. There are different circumstances this year. I think we can use it to our advantage."

The Target Center will have a little bit of a different feel after some renovations in the building, which is usually the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The ice was installed several weeks ago.

It actually forced the postponement of a Timberwolves game one night because there was too much condensation on the court.

"The first time we went down there, it was new for everybody," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It was a work in progress. I think they've refined that. They've prepared, knowing it's a big tournament. It's a great venue and an experience for our guys.

"The biggest thing for our guys is the 26 guys in the room is our family. Sometimes, it seems there are distractions with the hype of going to Minneapolis.

"We're going down there for one thing. It's business. That means not being distracted about everything around it."

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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