Matt Kiersted might be the hottest offensive player in the country.

The UND junior defenseman has nine points in the last two weekends. That's more than any other player in the nation during that stretch -- forward or defense.

Kiersted has won the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's defenseman of the week honor in two straight weeks for those performances on the road at Miami and Minnesota Duluth.

But the Fighting Hawks will be without him this weekend.

Kiersted sustained injuries during Saturday night's 3-2 win at Minnesota Duluth and has been in-and-out of practice this week. He will be held out for the series against Colorado College at 7:37 tonight and 7:07 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena, UND head coach Brad Berry confirmed.

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UND (19-3-3) is off next week, so Kiersted will get an extra week of rest before a showdown against Denver on Feb. 14-15.

With four goals and 23 points in 25 games, Kiersted is the second-leading defenseman scorer in the NCHC, only behind Bulldog blue liner Scott Perunovich (28 points).

Kiersted, a 6-foot, 186-pound blue liner, is an undrafted free agent, who has been drawing interest from NHL teams this season.

Kiersted hasn't missed games very often. Since the calendar flipped to 2018, UND has played 83 games. Kiersted has played in 82 of them, only missing a Saturday-night game against Denver in December 2018 because of a one-game suspension due to a game misconduct the previous night.

UND's top six defensemen outside of Kiersted are captain Colton Poolman, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Andrew Peski, Jonny Tychonick, Ethan Frisch and Gabe Bast. Josh Rieger also has filled in this season.

Forwards Dixon Bowen and Zach Yon are getting closer to returning for the Fighting Hawks. Both practiced this week.

Bowen missed Saturday night's game at Minnesota Duluth with an undisclosed injury. Yon has missed the last six games with an injury.

Bowen, of East Grand Forks, has six goals and eight points in 23 games for UND, while Yon, of Roseau, has three assists in 10 games.

Closing in on home ice?

UND cannot clinch home ice for the first round of the NCHC playoffs this weekend.

However, the Fighting Hawks are closing in.

UND currently has 34 points in league play with 10 regular-season games remaining. That's hovering around the point total of the final home-ice team in recent seasons.

The fourth-place team -- the last home-ice spot -- has finished the season with 39, 33, 35, 37, 41 and 37 points during the previous six seasons of the NCHC.

In 2017-18, UND secured home ice with 33 points, one fewer than it sits at right now.

UND missed home ice last season for the first time since 2002 and was knocked out in the first round of the NCHC playoffs by Denver.

With home ice virtually secured, UND will set its sights on winning the Penrose Cup as league champions for the third time in seven years. Previous Penrose winners finished with point totals of 62, 53, 59, 59, 50 and 48 points.