When the team portion of UND's hockey practice ended Wednesday morning, the coaching staff prepared the ice for the optional part of the skate.

Some coaches grabbed tires, cones and obstacles and put them in different spots on the ice to work on skills.

Another coach took care of the new assignment this season: blaring music through Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Top-ranked UND has modernized its practices by playing music during the skill development part of Wednesday's practices. They use an iPhone Pandora playlist that uses Bluetooth to play through the arena's speakers.

This week, it was a playlist of older classic rock songs like Panama by Van Halen and Jesse's Girl by Rick Springfield, though the genre has changed from week to week.

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"Wednesday is a skill day," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It's a shorter practice and we stick around and work on skills after. Part of that is pumping up the music and getting guys invigorated to get themselves better."

Berry has noticed players staying on the ice longer, moving from station to station, to improve small-area skills.

"They find value in it," Berry said. "You see guys stay longer. The majority of the guys are on the ice -- and not just for a few token minutes. They're out there for a while and that means they're having fun investing in their games. You have to invest in all parts of your game and they're surely doing that."

After missing the NCAA tournament in 2018 and 2019, the UND coaching staff re-examined every area of the program for ways to get better. The Fighting Hawks made changes -- some small, some large -- in numerous areas.

That included changes to practice.

UND shifted its practice time to mornings for the first time and now has added music for part of Wednesday skates.

"You go around the country watching games and practices and you incorporate things other organizations do," Berry said of how they got the idea of playing music during skills sessions. "We have a group of coaches working at each station with the guys. The guys bounce around from station to station and try to have a little fun. It has infused some energy as guys perform drills."

The wide-ranging changes seem to have worked. UND enters this weekend's series against the University of Denver (7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday) as the No. 1-ranked team in the country.

The Fighting Hawks are 21-3-3 overall, 12-2-2 in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play and 14-1 at home. They can clinch a top-half finish and home ice for the first round of the league playoffs with a win against the Pioneers.