Ten things you may not know about Colorado College's matchup with UND
Chris Wilkie walked back into Ralph Engelstad Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
Instead of parking in the north lot, he rode down the ramp on a bus. Instead of walking to the home room, he set up shop across the hall.
After spending two years at UND—and being a part of the 2016 NCAA national championship team—Wilkie is back in Grand Forks as a member of the opposing team.
Wilkie transfer to the Tigers during the summer of 2017, and after sitting out a season due to NCAA rules, is eligible this season. He's expected to be one of Colorado College's key players when the teams meet at 7:37 p.m. tonight for their National Collegiate Hockey Conference series opener.
"It's nice to be back," Wilkie said. "It's a little different to be on the other side of it this time, but I'm excited to finally get a chance to play back in here again. It's been circled on the calendar for a couple years now, so I'm definitely excited to get going."
Wilkie had a prolific junior hockey career but was in-and-out of the lineup at UND. He has found a regular spot on a scoring line with the Tigers. Wilkie scored goals in his first two games as a Tiger this fall and is averaging nearly a point per game (seven points in eight games).
An injury in late October forced him to miss 12 games, but Wilkie returned after Christmas and had two assists in his first game back.
"I think coach (Mike) Haviland has believed in me and given me the chances and I think I've just tried to take advantage of those and do what I can to help the team win," Wilkie said.
While much of the roster has turned over in the last two years, Wilkie will go head-to-head against two of his former UND roommates, Hayden Shaw and Rhett Gardner.
"It's definitely going to be a little weird at first," Wilkie said. "Those are guys I grew up with for two years here. But I think it will be fun to compete against them. At the end of the day, we'll always be good friends, but Friday and Saturday, I think all bets will be off."
While Wilkie's return will be one big storyline, here are nine other things fans may not know about Colorado College:
1. Bonnie Blair's son plays for CC
Bonnie Blair, who won five Olympic gold medals and once set an American Winter Olympics record by winning six overall medals, has a son who plays for Colorado College.
Freshman Grant Cruikshank is the son of two Olympic speedskaters—Blair and Dave Cruikshank.
Blair won one gold medal in Calgary in 1988, two gold medals in Albertville in 1992 and two more in Lillehammer in 1994. She also won bronze in Calgary. Her American record of six Winter Olympics medals stood until 2010.
Not surprisingly, Grant Cruikshank is known as an explosive skater for the Tigers. He has four goals and eight points in 19 games. He played juniors in Penticton.
2. A new arena is coming
Colorado College recently announced plans for a new on-campus arena. It's tentatively scheduled to open in 2021.
Once it does open, it will be the first time that the Tigers have ever had a home rink on campus.
They previously played at Broadmoor Arena and now play at Broadmoor World Arena. Both are about a 10-15 minute drive from campus.
The new Robson Arena is expected to be smaller than the 8,900-seat World Arena. Current estimates call for a capacity between 3,000-4,000.
3. Tate Maris is Colorado College's goalie coach
Former UND goaltender Tate Maris is the volunteer goalie coach at Colorado College.
Maris started working with the Tigers last season. He's currently in his second year in that position.
Maris made the trip to Grand Forks this week.
Maris, of Denver, played at UND from 2009-13. He primarily served as the team's third goalie and first appeared in a game as a senior. Maris was a favorite of both fans and teammates and was known for having a colorful Twitter account.
After UND, Maris played four professional seasons, primarily with the Colorado Eagles in the ECHL.
4. Econ is the popular major
The most popular major of Colorado College players is economics.
Six Tigers are majoring in econ: forward Trevor Gooch, defenseman Kristian Blumenschein, forward Tanner Ockey, forward Nick Halloran, forward Trey Bradley and forward Mason Bergh.
In addition to that, goalie Alex Leclerc is majoring in international political economy and Andrew Farny is majoring in mathematical economy.
The second-most popular major is history.
5. The big line is broken up
Last season, Colorado College tried putting Halloran, Bradley and Bergh together for a preseason exhibition game.
It worked so well that coach Mike Haviland kept them together for the entire season. They were linemates for all 37 games.
But in order to find more production, Haviland started breaking up that line this season. The trio of standouts were split up for Colorado College's last two games at Merrimack and Maine, and they've been split up four times since Nov. 10—all road games.
They'll be split up again this weekend as the Tigers announced Thursday afternoon that Halloran is out for the season with a lower-body injury.
6. Nick Olczyk's father is a Hall of Famer
Colorado College sophomore Nick Olczyk's father, Eddie, is in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Eddie played in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. He also served as a head coach for the Penguins and is now a commentator on NBC.
Nick's brother, Eddie, played at UMass and is now an assistant coach at Bemidji State. His other brother, Tommy, played at Penn State and is now playing professionally in Europe.
7. Versich played against East Grand Forks at state
Colorado College forward Christiano Versich played prep hockey at St. Thomas Academy and once matched up against UND juniors Colton Poolman and Dixon Bowen at the 2013 Minnesota state tournament.
Versich and St. Thomas Academy beat East Grand Forks 11-0 in a semifinal game.
Bowen and Poolman came back to win state the following year with the Green Wave.
8. A large roster
Colorado College has the largest roster in the NCHC.
The Tigers started the season with 32 players and are now down to 31 with the departure of goalie Alec Calvaruso, who is playing junior hockey for Sioux Falls under old Tigers coach Scott Owens.
The only other NCHC team with a 30-man roster is Western Michigan (30). Denver, Miami, Omaha and St. Cloud State have 27-man rosters, while UND and Minnesota Duluth have 26-man rosters.
9. Coming from the sun
Colorado College has a handful of players from non-traditional locations.
The Tigers have five players on the roster from the states of Arizona, California and Florida.
Rookies Erik Middendorf (Scottsdale) and Keenan Spillum (Phoenix) are from Arizona, while sophomore Brian Williams (San Diego) and Jack Gates (Oceanside) are from California and Bradley (Tampa) is from Florida.
10. Colorado College at UND
When: 7:37 p.m. Friday; 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena (tickets available).
TV/radio: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD); The Fox (96.1 FM).
Records: UND 9-9-1 (3-5 NCHC); Colorado College 8-10-2 (2-5-1)
Of note: UND is No. 21 in the Pairwise Rankings.