OMAHA, Neb. -- Archibald, Zombo and Belfour skated onto the ice together. They did a few laps and took their positions.
Then, they tried to beat UND.
That’s right, six years ago, all of them played for the other team -- the University of Nebraska Omaha.
Josh Archibald, Dominic Zombo and Dayn Belfour -- the sons of UND legends and NCAA national champions Jim Archibald, Rick Zombo and Ed Belfour -- were recruited to Omaha by then-head coach Dean Blais, who spent 19 years at UND as a head coach and an assistant.
Blais made a habit out of landing UND legacy players -- and having major success with them -- during his tenure in Omaha.
Although Blais is now retired, the pattern will repeat itself again this weekend.
When the Mavericks take on No. 20 UND at 7:07 p.m. tonight in Baxter Arena, fans will see a Morelli and a Ward skating together on the top line for Omaha.
Mason Morelli, the team’s senior captain, is the grandson of UND legend Reg Morelli, who was honored on UND’s home ice last weekend during the 60-year reunion of UND’s first NCAA national championship team. Reg scored the overtime winner in the national title game. Mason’s father, Matt, also played at UND from 1987-91.
Taylor Ward, a freshman, is the son of former UND superstar Dixon Ward. Dixon racked up 110 goals and 219 points from 1988-92. Only three players have ever scored more points in a UND uniform and only Ben Cherski, who starred in the 1950s, has scored more goals. Ward is the only player in program history to eclipse 100 goals and 100 assists.
“It tells you that Dean still has his fingerprints all over that program,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “Even though he’s not there and hasn’t been there the last year or two, you have Taylor Ward and Morelli there. Dean was part of the recruiting process with those guys.
“You always go back to relationships and people you’ve previously had. It’s a different generation but the same mentality and culture and (Blais) was dead-on when he recruited those players. They’re very good players.”
Blais had pretty good intel.
He coached all five of their fathers at UND.
'THEY CAN'T ALL GO TO NORTH DAKOTA'
Morelli, a 6-foot-1, 201-pound forward from Minot, enters the weekend with 22 points in 20 games. He’s one point shy of leading the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in scoring and one goal shy of leading the league in goals -- something Josh Archibald did en route to winning NCHC Player of the Year in 2013-14.
Morelli was named the NCHC’s player of the month for November.
“He’s very, very strong in front of the net,” Omaha coach Mike Gabinet said of Morelli. “He’s hard to move in front of the net. He’s excellent at tipping pucks with net presence. He’s got a strong shot. He’s hard on the forecheck. He kind of just plays the game the right way and he’s getting rewarded for it offensively.”
Ward, a 6-foot-2, 197-pound forward who grew up in British Columbia, ranks fourth on the team in points with 15 points. He’s also fifth in the NCHC in rookie scoring.
“Just a guy where opportunity meets preparation there,” Gabinet said. “Obviously, he came in with a good skillset on hand and now has the luxury of playing with Freddy Olofsson and Mason Morelli on that line and they have the luxury of playing with him. It’s a nice complement there. He’s really establishing a good work ethic and pace to his game, adjusting to the college level.”
Archibald and Zombo -- whose fathers were teammates for three seasons at UND -- finished 2-3 on Omaha in scoring in 2012-13 and finished 1-2 the following year.
This season, Morelli and Ward -- whose fathers were also teammates for three seasons at UND -- are continuing that trend by putting up big offensive numbers as linemates.
“It’s kind of a crazy trend we have going here,” Morelli said. “But that’s kind of cool, looking back at all that stuff. It’s something kind of special. You have your dads and grandpas to shape who you are. Luckily for us, they played at a pretty incredible program. Now, we get lucky to come play here and it’s just kind of a cool thing.”
Gabinet, who was an assistant coach at Omaha helping to recruit Ward, said he’s enjoying the trend.
“They all can’t go to North Dakota,” Gabinet said, laughing. “That’s one of the benefit now of having so many good hockey players now is that North Dakota can’t take every top-end recruit. We’re fortunate to get some really good hockey players who had fathers that played in that program.”
OMAHA'S RECENT SONS OF FORMER UND PLAYERS
- Josh Archibald, Omaha: 2014 NCHC Player of the Year, 94 career points, finished 1st, 2nd on team in scoring. Jim Archibald, UND: 1982 NCAA national champion, 144 career points, school-record 540 penalty minutes, three NHL seasons with Minnesota North Stars.
- Dominic Zombo, Omaha: 86 career points, finished 2nd, 3rd on team in scoring. Rick Zombo, UND: 1982 NCAA national champion, 63 career points, 12 NHL seasons with Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins.
- Dayn Belfour, Omaha: .906 save percentage, 2.39 goals-against average. Ed Belfour, UND: 1987 NCAA national champion, Stanley Cup champion, Hockey Hall of Fame member, 18 NHL seasons for Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers.
- Mason Morelli, Omaha: Team captain, 65 career points, second in NCHC in points and goals. Reg Morelli, UND: 1959 NCAA national champion, scored overtime-winning goal in national title game, 132 career points. Matt Morelli, UND: 10 points in 74 career games.
- Taylor Ward, Omaha: Top-line forward as a freshman, 15 points in 19 games, fifth among NCHC rookies in scoring. Dixon Ward, UND: 219 career points, 110 career goals, fourth all-time at UND in points, second all-time in goals, 10 NHL seasons for Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
NO. 20 NORTH DAKOTA AT OMAHA
When: 7:07 p.m. tonight, 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Baxter Arena, Omaha.
Records: UND 11-9-1 (5-5 NCHC); Omaha 6-12-2 (2-7-1).
TV/radio: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD); The Fox (96.1 FM).