GRAND FORKS - A hockey fan stopped to say hello and chat a couple of weeks ago at a coffee house in town.

We talked about the team for a bit.

Just before I was about to leave, he asked for a favor.

"Can you tell the players something for me?" he asked.

"What's that?" I asked.

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"Can you tell them to make sure to have fun out there?" he said. "Sometimes, it seems like they aren't having fun and that they are stressed. Last year's team had so much fun."

It's an interesting thought.

Obviously, the biggest reason for its inconsistencies is simply the lineup dynamics.

North Dakota lost not only four seniors, including Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player Drake Caggiula, it also lost five players early to NHL deals. It's impossible to replace those guys immediately. A dip was inevitable, especially as players adjust to new roles.

But the question bears asking.

Does this young team put too much pressure on itself to win in front of its 12,000 home fans? Is that what's partially contributing to the fact that since early November, UND has two wins in 10 home games yet is a perfect 6-0-0 away from Ralph Engelstad Arena?

UND is averaging 3.07 goals per game at home, 3.70 away.

It is giving up 2.60 goals per game at home, 2.30 away.

Its goaltenders have a combined save percentage of .882 at home and .927 away.

Making it even more perplexing, UND's schedule has been far more difficult on the road.

UND has played 10 games away from The Ralph. Eight of those 10 games were against teams ranked in this week's national poll - No. 2, No. 5, No. 6, No. 13 and No. 18. The only one that's not ranked is St. Cloud State, which is receiving votes.

UND has played 15 games at home. Nine of them 15 are against teams out of the top 15 nationally.

This week, UND gets back out on the road to World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo.

It will be a critical series as the Fighting Hawks sit at No. 11 in the Pairwise Rankings. Teams will need to be, at a minimum, in the top 14 to make the NCAA tournament.

UND still has its biggest goals in front of it this season.

It still can make the NCAA tournament for a 15th straight year. And if it does, recent history says anything can happen after that.

Maybe the Colorado Springs trip comes at a good time for UND.

Maybe it can find a reset button out there.

And have a little fun, too.