MINNEAPOLIS -- The North Dakota-Minnesota rivalry can instantly produce legendary moments that will stay with players for the rest of their careers.
Think: Neal Broten, Peter Armbrust, Blake Wheeler, Chris Porter, Justin Holl, Evan Trupp and Robbie Bina.
Some of those big moments came from superstars. Others came from more unlikely sources.
Who will it be this weekend? Here are six players to watch:
Dixon Bowen, UND
The senior forward isn't necessarily the highest-point producer for the Fighting Hawks, but he has a history of playing big in big games in the Twin Cities. Bowen was outstanding for East Grand Forks Senior High at state-tournament games in St. Paul and could be a major factor in this series. His speed (especially on the Olympic-sized ice sheet at Mariucci) and tenacity can be difficult for opponents to handle, and his wrist shot has a sneaky pace to it.
Sampo Ranta, Minnesota
The third-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche has been red-hot for the Gophers. After starting the season with two points in seven games, Ranta has seven points in the last seven games. He had a three-game goal streak end last Saturday against Wisconsin. His speed and strength have been major factors.
Westin Michaud, UND
The senior graduate transfer played the last three seasons at Colorado College, but nobody needs to explain the North Dakota-Minnesota rivalry to him. Michaud grew up in Cloquet, Minn., and this is exactly the type of series where he will thrive. Michaud plays on an edge and is relentless. His experience should help him be a big factor.
Sammy Walker, Minnesota
The Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick is one of Minnesota's most dynamic players. He started the season with seven points in five games. He only has one point in the last nine games, but generated plenty of chances last weekend against Wisconsin.
Colton Poolman, UND
UND's senior captain hasn't looked exactly like himself since missing the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game against Michigan Tech earlier this month, but he's the type of experienced veteran who can make a difference in a big series like this. Last year in Vegas, Poolman was the best player on the ice. He scored the game-tying and game-winning goals for the Fighting Hawks.
Matt Staudacher, Minnesota
Minnesota had three of its defensemen picked in the 2019 NHL Draft -- Ryan Johnson (first round), Jackson LaCombe (second round) and Ben Brinkman (sixth round). But it's a guy who was passed over in the draft who has been terrific for the Gophers this season. Staudacher leads the team with a plus-5 rating.
I asked Bob Motzko who is grading our best among his defensemen for scoring chances and the one that’s stepped forward the most so far is Staudacher—he’s a player who should be a good fit for a series called North Dakota.— Eric Vegoe (@evegoe) November 27, 2019