Dixon Ward and Dave Hakstol lined up a house to rent together when they were UND teammates in the late 1980s.

There was one problem, though.

They couldn't move in for a couple months, and they needed to find a place to live in the meantime.

Jeff Bowen, a former UND hockey player and a graduate student at the time, and his wife, Dawn, offered up a room in their two-bedroom apartment. So, Ward and Hakstol moved in and shared the spare room.

The Bowens got to know Ward pretty well during those two months.

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"I loved everything about the guy and his personality," Jeff said. "I remember I said if we ever have a boy, we're going to name him after Dixon. Quite frankly, I thought the name, 'Dixon' was a strong name. It's not a traditional name."

So, Jeff and Dawn did just that.

The middle of their three children -- and only son -- was born in 1996. They named him Dixon.

Dixon Bowen is now a senior on the UND men's hockey team, and this weekend will be extra special for him. He'll be going head-to-head with Dixon Ward's son, Taylor, who is a sophomore forward at Omaha, with his namesake watching from the stands.

"It's amazing," said Dixon Ward, who arrived in Grand Forks on Thursday. "It's going to be fun. I can't believe (Dixon Bowen) is a senior already. He was just a little kid not that long ago."

An all-time UND great

Dixon Ward is one of UND's all-time greats.

He's the only player in program history to tally 100 career goals and assists, finishing with 110 goals, 109 assists and 219 points. The only UND players to finish their careers with more points are Greg Johnson (272), Mark Taylor (265) and Jeff Panzer (228).

"It was awesome," Ward said of his time in Grand Forks, "as I'm sure most guys who have gone through here would say. It was an awesome four years making relationships that continue on today. It was a great time, a great spot. One of the best times anyone will ever have is being a part of this program."

Ward went on to play a decade in the NHL for the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Ward won a Calder Cup alongside UND associate coach Dane Jackson in 1996 with the Rochester Americans and played for a Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Sabres.

Ward is now the vice president and director of the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Kelowna, B.C., where his son, Taylor, played before advancing to a junior career with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League.

Dean Blais, who helped recruit Dixon Ward to UND and coached him in college for a year, was the head coach at Omaha who recruited Taylor to campus. Blais retired before coaching Taylor, though.

An interesting weekend

Both Dixon Bowen and Taylor Ward are having terrific seasons for their teams.

Bowen has already matched his career high in goals with six. That mark is tied for fifth on No. 1-ranked UND, which is averaging an NCAA-best 4.26 goals per game. Ward, meanwhile, leads Omaha with 10 goals and ranks second on the Mavericks in points with 16. Omaha also is a top-10 scoring offense in the nation.

Their families have stayed connected since they met in the 1980s. In fact, on his way to Hakstol's wedding in 2003, Dixon Ward stopped to pour concrete at the East Grand Forks home of the Bowens, who also have two daughters, Sydney and Ellie.

All of the longstanding connections will make for a memorable weekend.

"It's interesting, that's for sure," Ward said. "It's exciting to be able to watch Taylor in this rink and have a chance to see all my friends and get a chance to see him play. I brought his sister (Payton) with me. She's excited to watch her brother play and be around the area where I grew up."

Of course, Dixon and Payton Ward needed a place to stay this weekend.

Where did they turn? You guessed it.

They're staying with Jeff and Dawn Bowen.

Fighting Hawks forward Dixon Bowen celebrates his second period goal with UND hockey fans against Miami earlier this season in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
Fighting Hawks forward Dixon Bowen celebrates his second period goal with UND hockey fans against Miami earlier this season in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Omaha at No. 1 UND

When: 7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena (Hockey Fights Cancer tickets available).

TV/radio: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD); The Fox (96.1 FM).

Webcast: NCHC.tv.

Records: UND 16-1-2 (7-0-1 NCHC); Omaha 8-9-3 (2-5-1).

Of note: UND forward Dixon Bowen returned to practice this week after suffering an upper-body injury Friday night against Alabama Huntsville.