MINNEAPOLIS -- UND and Minnesota are set to play a rare Thanksgiving Day game tonight in 3M Arena at Mariucci.
This will be the fourth year in a row that these rivals have played against each other. Here are 10 things to know ahead of the marquee series:
1. More games ahead
This weekend's series marks Year 4 of 7 in UND and Minnesota's scheduling agreement.
Year 1 was 2016-17: Minnesota earned a win and a tie in Minneapolis.
Year 2 was 2017-18: The teams split in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Year 3 was 2018-19: UND won 3-1 in Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The Fighting Hawks and Gophers will play in Ralph Engelstad Arena next season (Year 5) and in 2022-23 (Year 7). They'll play in 3M Arena in Mariucci in 2021-22 (Year 6).
UND coach Brad Berry expressed his interest in keeping the rivalry going, even though the teams have been in different leagues since 2013.
"It's something special we had in the WCHA," Berry said. "Our players look forward to it. The coaching staffs look forward to it. The fans absolutely look forward to it. I know from both sides, from the NCHC side and the Big Ten side, the fans miss that each and every year, so we've tried to put that in to contractually play each other and I think it's a good thing going forward."
2. A rare Olympic-rink game for UND
This series will mark the first time that UND will play on a 100-foot wide, Olympic-sized ice rink this season.
Olympic rinks are 15 feet wider than NHL sheets, like the one on the main rink at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
UND hasn't played much on Olympic rinks recently. In fact, since Dec. 10, 2017 -- a span of 70 games -- the Fighting Hawks have played just two games on Olympic-sized sheets. That was a two-game series at Colorado College's World Arena last March. UND split those games, losing the opener 3-1 and winning the finale 2-1.
Minnesota has stated its wish to shrink the ice size at 3M Arena at Mariucci, and is awaiting the funding to do so.
After this weekend, UND will play two more games on an Olympic-sized ice sheet this season -- Feb. 21-22 at St. Cloud State. UND does not play at Colorado College this season.
3. Another linemate battle for Hain
For the second-straight week, UND's Gavin Hain will play against one of his Grand Rapids High School linemates.
Last week, it was Micah Miller at St. Cloud State. This week, it's Blake McLaughlin at Minnesota.
Hain, Miller and McLaughlin led Grand Rapids to a state championship. Hain had a hat trick in the title game against Moorhead.
"Obviously, we grew up together and played together throughout the years," Hain said. "We did some cool stuff at Rapids. Getting a chance to play against each other is something you don't get to do every day, so it's cool."
Last Saturday, Hain's line was matched up with Miller's line.
4. Discovery of Hain-Senden-Smith
It was last year's UND-Minnesota game in Las Vegas where UND stumbled upon the all-Minnesotan line of Hain, Mark Senden (Wayzata) and Cole Smith (Brainerd) that has been magic for the Fighting Hawks.
Grant Mismash started the Vegas game on a line with Senden and Smith, but Mismash was ejected for a check from behind in the second period. Hain was the extra forward in that game and got moved into Mismash's spot.
From the start, that line was dominant with puck possession and scoring chances.
Immediately after that game, Hain was out with mononucleosis, but when he returned, the coaching staff remembered what they saw in Vegas and put that trio together. For the last year and a half, it has been UND's best line.
5. Gopher family connections
A couple of UND players have family connections to the Minnesota program.
UND senior forward Zach Yon's father, Bill, played for the Gophers from 1981-85 (Herald story from 2017 season).
Senden's uncle, Stuart, played for the Gophers from 1997-01.
6. Lots of NHL draft picks
These two teams heavily feature NHL draft picks.
Minnesota has more than any team in the country with 13.
Wisconsin, Boston University and Boston College are all tied for second with 12.
Then, it's UND with 10.
The highest-drafted Gopher players are rookie defensemen Ryan Johnson (first round, No. 31 overall, Buffalo Sabres) and Jackson LaCombe (second round, No. 39 overall, Anaheim Ducks).
The highest-drafted Fighting Hawks players are defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker (first round, No. 26 overall, Ottawa Senators) and Shane Pinto (second round, No. 32 overall, Ottawa Senators).
7. Senators watching?
Don't be surprised if the Ottawa Senators are spending their Thanksgiving at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
The Senators will be in the Twin Cities, because they are scheduled to play against the Minnesota Wild at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon in Xcel Energy Center.
Three of their highest-drafted prospects are on UND's team: Bernard-Docker, Pinto and Jonny Tychonick (second round).
The Senators may be becoming experts on this rivalry. Last season, they played in Las Vegas the day after North Dakota-Minnesota.
8. Heavy teams
According to College Hockey News's Almanac, this series will feature the two heaviest teams in college hockey.
UND ranks first with an average weight of 194.1. Minnesota is second with an average weight of 193.9.
Western Michigan, UND's opponent next weekend, is third at 193.6.
Minnesota ranks seventh in average height, while UND is 26th.
9. Gophers are second-youngest team
Minnesota has the second-youngest team in college hockey in terms of average age at 20 years and 10 months.
The only team younger than Minnesota is Boston University (20 years, 9 months).
College hockey's three youngest teams are hovering around the .500 mark: Boston University (4-5-5), Minnesota (5-6-3) and Wisconsin (6-7-1). Boston College is the fourth-youngest team. The Eagles are 8-4 and on a six-game winning streak.
This series will feature three of the 25 youngest players in college hockey: Minnesota's Ryan Johnson (18 years, 4 months), UND's Judd Caulfield (18 years, 8 months) and UND's Harrison Blaisdell (18 years, 8 months).
10. Goalie matchup
It's clear who will start in net for UND in the series opener.
Sophomore Adam Scheel has played every minute in net for UND this season.
In fact, it was last year's game against Minnesota in Las Vegas when Scheel started to establish himself as the starter. After Scheel and Peter Thome split starts the first two weekends last season, Scheel got the start in Vegas. He 20 of 21, allowing just a five-on-three power-play goal.
It's not-so-clear who will start for Minnesota.
Michigan transfer Jack LaFontaine and rookie Jared Moe have split starts for the Gophers. Their numbers are extremely similar. LaFontaine, who started both games against Wisconsin last weekend, has a .910 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average. Moe has a .912 and a 2.65.