UND will have its captain back in the lineup this weekend.
Senior defenseman Colton Poolman, who missed last weekend's series at Miami with an upper-body injury, is expected to return for this weekend's showdown between first-place UND and second-place Minnesota Duluth in AmsOil Arena.
"We just got done with practice right now and he looked very good on the ice," UND coach Brad Berry said Monday afternoon. "It was a wise choice to leave him at home and get him rested and recovered to be 100 percent healthy for this series in Duluth this weekend."
UND earned a win and a tie at Miami without Poolman to increase its lead in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings to eight points ahead of the Bulldogs.
The Fighting Hawks haven't had to play without Poolman often.
Prior to the weekend, the East Grand Forks Senior High graduate had only missed three of UND's 138 games in his career. One came earlier this season -- the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game against Michigan Tech in Ralph Engelstad Arena in early November. UND won that game 3-1.
Poolman's return comes at a key time for UND.
Without him, UND's penalty kill gave up four power-play goals on 10 chances against Miami. This weekend's series is against the best power-play team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in Minnesota Duluth (27 percent). Poolman is one of UND's best penalty killers.
Offensively, he has two goals and 11 points in 20 games.
Rieger takes some of Bast's shifts
UND dressed seven defensemen for Saturday night's 5-3 victory over the RedHawks, giving junior Josh Rieger more ice time as the game progressed. Junior Gabe Bast's ice time decreased after he took a boarding penalty to put UND down three-on-five late in the second period. The RedHawks scored on the ensuing power play to take a 3-2 lead.
"Without saying too much from internally in our locker room, there were some things that were addressed after the second period as far as discipline," Berry said. "We shortened the bench a little bit because of sending a message to our team. One of the things we do is keep guys accountable. That got Josh Rieger into the game.
"He played in the second period. He played a lot in the third period. He did a very good job. I've got to commend him. That's not an easy job being in his situation as an older guy and being in and out of the lineup and getting limited reps sometimes. That goes to a true testament to how team-first he is and how he keeps himself prepared and focused. You need guys like that because if you just put him in the lineup and he's not buying in or he's not ready to go, then you don't have a lot of success."
Berry credited his depth players with playing a big role in the team's 18-2-3 record.
"We mention all of the guys like (Jordan) Kawaguchi, (Collin) Adams and (Grant) Mismash -- and we should -- they're very good players," Berry said. "But the other part is having guys like the Josh Riegers and Casey Johnsons in your lineup that do an outstanding job in their role."
The Fighting Hawks have continued to play without senior forward Zach Yon, who sustained an injury in practice two weeks ago.
Cornell takes No. 1 ranking from UND
After spending four weeks as the nation's No. 1 team, UND dropped to No. 2 this week.
Cornell (13-1-3) narrowly took over the top spot from the Fighting Hawks. The Big Red received 951 points. UND received 949. No. 3-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato is lurking nearby with 940 points.
UND has maintained the No. 1 spot in the Pairwise Rankings, which determines the NCAA tournament field and seeds. MSU-Mankato is No. 2 in the Pairwise and Cornell is No. 3.