UND and other college hockey teams have been better on the road after Thanksgiving
Is it a turkey hangover?
Is it too much stuffing and mashed potatoes?
Is it the fact that the UND hockey team is out of its normal routine on Thanksgiving week?
Or is it the fact that the atmosphere in Ralph Engelstad Arena feels a bit off with the students out of town?
Whatever the reason, there’s no question that UND has played some of its biggest clunkers of the last five years at home on the day after Thanksgiving.
Last season, it was a 4-1 loss to Union at home -- one that defenseman Christian Wolanin called “terrible.”
In 2016, it was a 4-3 loss to the Big Ten’s worst team, Michigan State, which finished 7-24-4 that season. The only reason the score was that close was because of two late goals by Tyson Jost.
In 2014, UND tied with Omaha, which wasn’t a bad result. But in 2013, UND lost 5-2 to St. Lawrence -- a defeat that prompted an hour-long players-only meeting in the locker room.
On Friday night, the Fighting Hawks will finally try to buck that trend against an Alaska Anchorage team that’s managed just two goals in the last six games and will come to The Ralph with a 1-8-1 record -- the second-worst winning percentage in college hockey (.150), only ahead of 1-11 Alabama Huntsville.
“I think, this week here, we’ve had the attention of our players because of the result last weekend,” said UND coach Brad Berry, whose team lost twice at home to Western Michigan last weekend. “We’ve had their attention from Sunday on. That’s something, the past couple years, we haven’t had. Mondays are usually skate, pass shoot, and then you get into the week. We drilled right into it Monday morning and hopefully, we’ll have the focus and attention on Friday.”
UND (5-5-1 overall) is looking for its first win at home on Black Friday since 2011, when it knocked off Colorado College 7-6.
Since then, the Fighting Hawks are 0-3-1 at home on Black Friday, while holding a 2-0 mark on the road on Black Friday.
UND hasn’t lost on the road the day after Thanksgiving since 1995, going 6-0 in that span (wins in 2015, 2012, 2004, 1999, 1998 and 1996).
This isn’t a trend unique to UND, either.
It has been four years since home teams overall have had a winning record on Black Friday. Home teams are 19-24-4 in the last three seasons on Black Friday, while playing significantly better on Saturday (29-16-8).
“We talked about that a little last year,” UND captain Colton Poolman said. “Obviously, it still happened. That’s something we have to address early and say, ‘Hey, we haven’t had the best games, for whatever reason.’ It’s all about resetting, not getting frustrated. That’s the theme we’ve been carrying this week.”
The UND coaching staff always makes sure every player on the team has a place to go on Thursday for Thanksgiving dinner.
Traditionally, they gather at the homes of players who are from the area. In recent years, UND has had numerous local players on the roster, making that easier.
The team still has all of its normal practices for the week, though Thanksgiving Day’s practice will again be moved to the morning, because there are no classes that day.
When UND is on the road for Thanksgiving, it stays in more of its routine -- a normal Thursday afternoon road practice followed by the weekly team meal.
And for whatever reason, its record has been much better.
UND'S RECENT BLACK FRIDAY HOME GAMES
2017: 4-1 loss to Union
2016: 4-3 loss to Michigan State
2015: On the road (win at Michigan State)
2014: 2-2 tie with Omaha
2013: 5-2 loss to St. Lawrence
2012: On the road (win at Notre Dame)
ALASKA ANCHORAGE AT NO. 17 NORTH DAKOTA
When: 7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
TV/radio: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622); The Fox (96.1 FM).
Records: UND 5-5-1, Alaska Anchorage 1-8-1.
Of note: This series is the Subway Holiday Classic. UND is offering tickets at a discounted price, $15, for today’s Black Friday sale.