Omaha arrived in Ralph Engelstad Arena late Thursday afternoon for practice.

Some staff members had already checked the weekend forecast.

They saw cold, but they didn't see snow. That was very welcome news for the Mavericks, who were forced to spend the night in The Ralph last March after a blizzard shut down Interstate 29.

Omaha took a bus to Fargo on Wednesday night, then finished the drive Thursday. The Mavericks practiced in The Ralph, preparing for a weekend showdown against No. 1-ranked UND.

Only three college hockey teams are still unbeaten at home this season: UND (11-0), Maine (7-0-2) and Cornell (4-0).

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Omaha is playing two of them -- on the road -- in back-to-back weekends.

Last weekend, the Mavericks tied 2-2 and lost 3-2 to the Black Bears in Alfond Arena, throwing 77 shots on goal at Maine star goalie Jeremy Swayman. That weekend was a good preparation for this weekend's series in The Ralph.

"A couple of tough trips here, but I'm excited," Omaha coach Mike Gabinet said. "I've just really enjoyed coaching our team this year -- a lot of really positive, young guys, high-character individuals. They're working. We seem to be improving every week.

"Guys are trying their hardest. They're really competing and buying into what we're trying to do here. I think we've just got to stick with it here against an obviously very hot team in North Dakota playing extremely well. So, they're going to be a tough opponent, but we've got to worry about ourselves and making sure we continue to get better."

Omaha has several players who are dangerous offensively.

Senior forward Zach Jordan may have the hardest shot in the league. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward has nine goals this season (only one on the power play).

"He's been good," Gabinet said. "He plays his best when he plays a simple, direct game, because his strengths are his straight-away speed and his ability to shoot the puck. When he gets that puck on the net, whether it's a rebound manufacturing some offense for his teammates or beating the goalie, when he gets that shot off, he's an effective player."

The rookie who fans will get to know is Ryan Brushett, who has one goal and 12 assists in 20 games. He scored his first-career goal last weekend at Maine. Don't let those numbers fool you into thinking he's not a goal-scorer, though. He led the BCHL in goals last season, outpacing first-round NHL draft pick Alex Newhook.

In fact, the last two BCHL goal-scoring champs are going head-to-head this weekend: Brushett and UND's Jasper Weatherby.

"I think you can just see there's some really good skill," Gabinet said of Brushett. "He's got a really good stick. He knows how to score goals, even though he hasn't put up a ton this year goals-wise. He's making some real crucial plays for us."

Follow the games

Omaha at No. 1 UND

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

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

TV: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Webcast: NCHC.tv.

Live blog: GrandForksHerald.com.

Stories to read

Feature: Dixon Bowen to be on opposite side of his namesake this weekend

Feature: Jacob Bernard-Docker is back with a gold medal, a lifetime of memories and valuable experience

Feature: Ethan Frisch, one of UND's most pleasant surprises, hasn't always been an elite skater

Former players: When in Tampa, Brock Boeser sits with the defensemen so he can use his 2016 Frozen Four locker stall

Feature: The Herald's all-decade UND hockey team

Feature: The most unforgettable UND hockey goals from the 2010s

Tale of the tape

North Dakota--Statistical category--Omaha
16-1-2Record8-9-3
1Poll rankingNR
1Pairwise34
4.26 (1st)Offense3.40 (10th)
1.63 (3rd)Defense3.10 (42nd)
9.0 (50th)Penalty minutes15.7 (6th)
18.4 (32nd)Power play20.5 (18th)
90.8 (7th)Penalty kill79.0 (40th)
53.0 (10th)Faceoffs49.8 (33rd)
60.1 (2nd)Corsi (possession)52.2 (18th)
.922 (11th)Save percentage.889 (47th)

National ranking in parenthesis

Injury update

The Fighting Hawks are only expected to be missing one player -- forward Zach Yon, who suffered an apparent lower-body injury this week. The timeline on his absence is unknown. UND's Dixon Bowen and Gabe Bast both returned to practice this week after Bowen missed Saturday night's game with an upper-body injury and Bast left Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury. UND sophomore defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker returned to practice Thursday after taking two days off to rest and recover from playing seven games in 11 days at the World Juniors. Freshman forward Shane Pinto also got one day off this week to rest and recover from the World Juniors. Omaha freshman defenseman Kirby Proctor returned to practice this week after missing last weekend's series at Maine, while Maverick freshman goalie Isaiah Saville re-joined the team after being with USA's World Junior team. Saville did not play in the World Juniors.

Jacob Bernard-Docker stands in front of a list of UND's World Junior Championship participants in Ralph Engelstad Arena, wearing the gold medal he won last week with Team Canada in the Czech Republic. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald
Jacob Bernard-Docker stands in front of a list of UND's World Junior Championship participants in Ralph Engelstad Arena, wearing the gold medal he won last week with Team Canada in the Czech Republic. Photo by Brad Elliott Schlossman / Grand Forks Herald

The focus: Kevin Conley

Omaha has one player on its roster with an NCAA national championship ring. That’s junior forward Kevin Conley, who was on Denver’s 2017 team. Conley transferred after that season and has been a revelation for the Mavericks. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound forward from Wausau, Wis., is Omaha’s leading scorer with 18 points in 20 games. Conley, who has been playing on a line with freshman Joey Abate and sophomore Taylor Ward (the son of UND legend Dixon Ward), creates offense with his dynamic speed and a good stick.

Omaha forward Kevin Conley. Photo by Omaha athletics.
Omaha forward Kevin Conley. Photo by Omaha athletics.

Pick to click: Mark Senden

One of UND's most quietly impressive players since Christmas break has been sophomore forward Mark Senden. The relentless center from the Twin Cities is a dominant puck possession player who plays a north-south game. When he has a chance to get pucks to the net, he does it. It hasn't translated to point production recently. Senden enters this weekend on a 13-game goal drought (since Nov. 1, he has just two assists). But if he plays like last weekend, he's going to break through soon, and the Herald's pick is that it happens this weekend.

UND's Mark Senden faces off with Alabama-Huntsville forward Connor Merkley Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
UND's Mark Senden faces off with Alabama-Huntsville forward Connor Merkley Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Weekend prediction: Split

UND finally achieved the Ralph Engelstad Arena record (building opened in 2001) for longest home winning streak last Saturday night. That run is now at 13 games, the longest since 1990. UND’s overall unbeaten streak is at 15 games -- a run that started in October. The Fighting Hawks are long overdue for a letdown, and a dangerous offensive team like Omaha has the potential to end those runs. The Mavericks have been streaky this season. On the road, they haven’t swept nor have they been swept.

Omaha 4-3, UND 6-2

Pairwise Rankings

1. UND 16-1-2

2. Cornell 11-1-1

3. MSU-Mankato 18-3-1

4. Denver 13-4-3

5. Boston College 12-4

6. Penn State 15-6

7. Ohio State 13-5-2

8. UMass 13-6-1

9. Northeastern 13-5-2

10. Minnesota Duluth 11-6-1

11. UMass Lowell 11-4-4

12. Providence 11-5-5

13. Clarkson 13-4-2

14. Notre Dame 10-7-3

15. Michigan Tech 13-9-1

16. Michigan State 10-9-1

17. Arizona State 11-8-3

18. Quinnipiac 11-7-1

19. Northern Michigan 11-7-2

20. Harvard 7-5-2

21. Army 13-7-1

22. Dartmouth 7-5-2

23. Maine 10-8-4

24. Bowling Green 12-9-1

25. Boston University 6-6-5

USCHO rankings

1. UND (46 first-place votes) 16-1-2

2. Cornell (2) 11-1-1

3. MSU-Mankato (2) 18-3-1

4. Boston College 12-4

5. Denver 13-4-3

6. Penn State 15-6

7. Clarkson 13-4-2

8. Ohio State 13-5-2

9. Minnesota Duluth 11-6-1

10. UMass 13-6-1

11. Northeastern 13-5-2

12. Providence 11-5-5

13. UMass Lowell 11-4-4

14. Notre Dame 10-7-3

15. Arizona State 11-8-3

16. Bowling Green 12-9-1

17. Michigan Tech 13-9-1

18. Harvard 7-5-2

19. Northern Michigan 11-7-2

20. Michigan State 10-9-1

Player stats

UND

Scoring

29 Jordan Kawaguchi, jr, f 10-18--28

18 Collin Adams, jr, f 6-12--18

11 Westin Michaud, sr, f 8-8--16

22 Shane Pinto, fr, f 9-6--15

24 J. Bernard-Docker, so, d 3-11--14

3 Matt Kiersted, jr, d 2-12--14

16 Grant Mismash, jr, f 5-8--13

6 Colton Poolman, sr, d 2-9--11

26 Cole Smith, sr, f 7-3--10

14 Jasper Weatherby, so, f 6-3--9

17 Jonny Tychonick, so, d 3-6--9

8 Harrison Blaisdell, fr, f 2-6--8

9 Dixon Bowen, sr, f 6-1--7

28 Judd Caulfield, fr, f 2-5--7

4 Andrew Peski, sr, d 1-6--7

19 Mark Senden, so, f 2-4--6

10 Gavin Hain, so, f 2-4--6

2 Gabe Bast, jr, d 2-1--3

21 Jackson Keane, jr, f 1-2--3

7 Zach Yon, sr, f 0-3--3

15 Ethan Frisch, fr, d 1-1--2

31 Adam Scheel, so, g 0-2--2

20 Josh Rieger, jr, d 1-0--1

5 Casey Johnson, sr, f 0-0--0

1 Peter Thome, jr, g NA

35 Harrison Feeney, fr, g NA

13 Carson Albrecht, fr, f NA

Goaltending

31 Adam Scheel, so 16-1-2 1.61 .922

1 Peter Thome, jr NA

35 Harrison Feeney, fr NA

Omaha

Scoring

10 Kevin Conley, jr, f 8-10--18

17 Taylor Ward, so, f 10-6--16

40 Tyler Weiss, so, f 3-12--15

14 Teemu Pulkkinen, sr, f 4-9--13

9 Ryan Brushett, fr, f 1-12--13

27 Zach Jordan, sr, f 9-3--12

13 Chayse Primeau, so, f 5-7--12

11 Nolan Sullivan, fr, f 4-8--12

45 Joey Abate, fr, f 7-4--11

4 Brandon Scanlin, fr, d 2-9--11

19 Tristan Keck, sr, f 4-6--10

16 Martin Sundberg, jr, f 2-5--7

20 Ryan Jones, sr, d 2-5--7

18 Dean Stewart, sr, d 1-6--7

2 Jason Smallidge, so, d 2-3-5

3 Kirby Proctor, fr, d 0-5--5

48 Josh Boyer, fr, f 3-1--4

23 Travis Kothenbeutel, so, f 0-4--4

7 Nate Knoepke, jr, d 0-3--3

5 John Schuldt, so, d 1-1--2

47 Alex Roy, fr, d 0-0--0

21 Noah Prokop, fr, f 0-0--0

31 Isaiah Saville, fr, g 0-0--0

36 Austin Roden, fr, g 0-0--0

22 Jordan Klehr, sr, d NA

35 Jacob Zab, fr, g NA

Goaltending

31 Isaiah Saville, fr 6-5-2 3.04 .889

36 Austin Roden, fr 2-4-1 2.90 .899

35 Jacob Zab, fr NA