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Men's hockey: Mavs looking to break drought

Five years ago -- to the day -- David Backes slammed home a goal from the side of the crease with 3.8 seconds left to give Minnesota State-Mankato a 4-3 win over UND.

Since then, Backes has played four seasons in the NHL, racked up 30 goals in a season and earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster. His old college team, meanwhile, still hasn't won another regulation game in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Minnesota State is back in Grand Forks this weekend, trying to break a long stretch of futility here and against the Sioux in general.

UND (10-6-4 overall, 6-6-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) is 12-1-1 against the Mavericks in the last 14 games overall. In Grand Forks, UND has been dominant since Minnesota State embarrassed the Sioux during Ralph Engelstad Arena's first season.

The Mavericks swept UND then, winning by scores of 6-4 and 6-0. The Sioux have not suffered a more lopsided defeat in the nine-year-old building since that series finale.

They have turned the tables on the Mavericks, though.

In the last 17 games between the teams in Grand Forks, Minnesota State has eked out just two wins. One came on Backes' last second goal, the other when Rob Rankin's unscreened shot from just inside the blue line knuckled on Sioux goalie Jordan Parise for an overtime game-winner.

The games between these programs have been wild (See the back-to-back, three-goal rallies by the Mavericks in 2006, only to lose later on). They've been feisty (See the three 100-plus penalty minute games since 2006). And they've been just plain weird (See Zach Harrison's shorthanded natural hat trick last year).

"I'm looking forward to it," UND defenseman Ben Blood said. "It always ends up being a battle when we play those guys, because they play really hard. It should be a good test for us."

Goalie Brad Eidsness added: "We're pretty accustomed to how they play. It's in your face. They're going to come at you hard, so it's going to be a good, intense weekend. It's always a war against these guys."

UND coach Dave Hakstol said: "You're going to see fast and physical hockey played with a lot of intensity."

This series also marks UND's first home game in almost a month.

"It will be an advantage," Blood said. "We all have our own routine here, pregame meal here and we obviously have our fans. It will be great to be back home.

"Guys are starting to gel, the team chemistry is good. . . the mood and the attitude in the locker room all the time is just great."

No rest for Kristo

UND freshman Danny Kristo is expected to return to the lineup tonight, just three days after helping Team USA to the gold medal at the World Junior Championship.

Not all of the American team members will be joining their college squads this weekend, though. Denver is giving defenseman Matt Donovan the weekend off to go back home to Oklahoma.

Wisconsin is likely to hold Derek Stepan, John Ramage and Jake Gardiner out of action during the team's exhibition against the U.S. Under-18 team.

Kristo said he's a little worn down by playing nine games in the last two weeks and coach Dave Hakstol said the team will manage Kristo's minutes.

Briefly

The Mavericks are 7-2-1 during their last 10 games. . . UND is the only team in the country that ranks in the top 10 nationally in both power play and penalty kill. . . The Sioux rank first among WCHA teams in goals allowed (2.15 per game). That figure ranks sixth nationally.

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman 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.

(701) 780-1129
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