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MEN'S HOCKEY: UND ranked No. 1 in both polls for first time since end of 2010-11 season

UND's Michael Parks, Drake Caggiula, and Mark MacMillan celebrate a goal against the University of Nebraska Omaha on Saturday, Nov 29, 2014, at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

So much for the slow starts.

One day after the end of November – traditionally UND’s worst under 11th-year coach Dave Hakstol – UND was ranked No. 1 in the country by both national polls.

UND received 29 of 50 first-place votes in the USCHO poll, jumping one spot to No. 1. Minnesota State-Mankato, Boston University and Miami follow. UND grabbed 28 of 34 first-place votes in the USA Today poll, taking the top spot ahead of Boston University, Minnesota and MSU-Mankato.

It is the first time that UND has reached No. 1 in both polls since the end of the 2010-11 season, when UND had a run of seven straight weeks at the top.

While the opening game of the season was a disaster for UND – a 5-1 loss at home against Bemidji State – the team has gone 10-2-2 since that game. Last weekend, it earned a tie and a win against Nebraska Omaha in Ralph Engelstad Arena, while previous No. 1 BU dropped a pair of games.

It’s a far cry from where this team was a year ago. In the past three seasons, UND has been 5-7-2, 6-5-2 and 6-7-1 at the end of November. But with a veteran team, UND has been able to kick that trend this season.

“You take small steps and move forward,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol, not one to put much stock in polls. “That’s all we’re trying to do. It’s hard to do in this league. It’s hard to make positive steps forward every weekend in the win column.”

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference as a whole dominated the polls.

Five of the top 12 teams are from the NCHC, including Miami (4), Minnesota Duluth (8), Denver (10) and Omaha (12). The NCHC is 33-16-2 (.667) against other leagues — .100 points higher than the next closest, the ECAC (.561).

“We took stock last year as a league that we didn’t perform the way we wanted to,” Hakstol said. “Just because you try to do better doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. There are a lot of good teams in the NCHC. That’s obvious. I’m not talking about the polls or anything else like that. I think there are a lot of real good teams in our league. “

UND has four more games until break. This weekend, it hosts Lake Superior State. UND travels to Denver the following weekend.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th 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.

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