ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- Saturday night will mark the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice.

So, it's pretty neat that the UND hockey team will be playing a game that evening in a building named after Herb Brooks, the legendary coach of that squad.

The No. 1-ranked Fighting Hawks play a two-game series against St. Cloud State in the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center (7:37 tonight, 6:07 p.m. Saturday).

On that night in 1980, UND played a home game against Michigan. Cary Eades, who was a sophomore on that UND team, said he remembers hearing about the result in Walsh Hall before going to The Ralph to play against the Wolverines. The Miracle on Ice started at 4 p.m. Central.

Two days later, after sweeping Michigan, the UND team watched together as their old teammate, Dave Christian, won the gold medal as the U.S. beat Finland. The 1980 UND squad will get back together next weekend in Grand Forks for a 40-year reunion of their title.

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There's been so much good content about the Miracle, but I thought this piece on ESPN was particularly interesting. It looked at the Miracle through the lens of modern analytics. Christian graded out extremely well.

While the Miracle is the ultimate underdog story in hockey, UND has one going on right now with Peter Thome.

Did you know that Thome was cut from the 'C' team in peewees, never made varsity at Benilde-St. Margaret's and had to move to Chicago, where he lived with a Russian family that didn't speak English, just to get a shot? If so, then you understand why he didn't give up when he started this season as the third-stringer. Read his story here.

One thing that stands out about this UND team is how remarkably good it has been at winning one-goal games. Since that loss and tie at Minnesota State-Mankato in mid-October (where I wrote a story about how UND looks good but needs to find a way to win toss-up games), the Fighting Hawks are 11-1-2 in one-goal games (excluding empty-netters).

That includes both games against St. Cloud State in November.

UND won the first night 4-2 with a Cole Smith empty-netter and the second night 2-1 on a Jordan Kawaguchi overtime winner. The expectations is for close games this weekend.

"I think there's a belief in our group that we can score goals," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Scoring more goals this year is a big deal. But having a belief in our team as far as the depth of our goaltenders, our defensemen and our forwards and having an overall commitment of whether it's blocking shots, breaking out pucks, just kind of holding teams off.

"There are momentum shifts in games and in a third period when a team is making a push like Denver did, it's having a belief that you can survive one or two shifts playing in your end and get the job done. Our guys have done a good job of that. I think it goes to the leadership of the team. This is the time of year where leadership takes over in the locker room."

Follow the games

No. 1 UND at St. Cloud State

When: 7:37 tonight, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, St. Cloud, Minn.

TV: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622 HD) tonight; Fox Sports North (GF Ch. 28/623 HD) on Saturday.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Webcast: NCHC.tv.

Live blog: GrandForksHerald.com.

St. Cloud State goaltender David Hrenak (34) blocks a first period shot by UND's Westin Michaud in a game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
St. Cloud State goaltender David Hrenak (34) blocks a first period shot by UND's Westin Michaud in a game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Tale of the tape

North DakotaStatistical categorySt. Cloud State
23-3-3Record11-12-5
1Poll rankingNR
1Pairwise ranking27
4.14 (1st)Offense2.86 (28th)
1.97 (6th)Defense3.14 (46th)
9.2 (49th)Penalty minutes10.2 (38th)
22.7 (16th)Power play18.1 (36th)
87.1 (5th)Penalty kill18.1 (36th)
54.3 (5th)Faceoffs48.2 (47th)
58.2 (3rd)Corsi (possession)48.7 (35th)
.909 (24th)Goaltending.890 (51st)

National rank in parenthesis

NCHC standings As of Feb. 20, 2020
Team Points Games left NCHC record This week
North Dakota 46 6 14-2-2 at SCSU
Minn. Duluth 38 6 12-4-2 at WMU
Western Michigan 32 6 9-6-3 vs. Duluth
Denver 28 6 7-7-4 vs. Miami
SCSU 25 6 8-9-1 vs. UND
Omaha 21 6 6-9-3 vs. CC
Miami 14 6 3-12-3 at Denver
Colorado College 12 6 3-13-2 at Omaha
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald

Injury report

UND sophomore forward Gavin Hain is doubtful for this weekend's series. Hain was injured Feb. 1 against Colorado College and hasn't played since. The Fighting Hawks had a bye the following week. Hain missed both games last weekend against Denver. Rookie Harrison Blaisdell took his spot on the third line alongside Mark Senden and Cole Smith. A few UND players fought bouts with the flu this week, but as of Thursday, it's not expected to sideline anyone. St. Cloud State forward Sam Hentges missed the team's last series with an illness but is expected to return.

Fighting Hawks forward Gavin Hain brings a point-blank shot to the edge of Colorado College goalie Matt Vernon's (30) crease in the first period of a game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
Fighting Hawks forward Gavin Hain brings a point-blank shot to the edge of Colorado College goalie Matt Vernon's (30) crease in the first period of a game at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

The focus: F Easton Brodzinski

UND won’t soon forget Jonny Brodzinski, a former St. Cloud State forward who had six goals and 12 points in 12 regular-season games during his career against the Fighting Hawks. He’s gone, but his brother, Easton Brodzinski (pictured), is emerging as a goal-scorer for the Huskies. Easton leads the Huskies in goals (12) and points (24). He enters this weekend having scored a goal in four of the last five games for St. Cloud State. Only five NCHC players have more goals since Christmas than Brodzinski.

St. Cloud State’s Easton Brodzinski tries to work the puck around Princeton’s Pito Walton to the goal during the first period Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. (Jason Wachter/The Rink Live)
St. Cloud State’s Easton Brodzinski tries to work the puck around Princeton’s Pito Walton to the goal during the first period Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minn. (Jason Wachter/The Rink Live)

Pick to click: Harrison Blaisdell

Because of an injury to Gavin Hain, Harrison Blaisdell got an opportunity to play on a line with Mark Senden and Cole Smith last week. Blaisdell was on that unit to start the season. He scored goals in two of his first three games. But since the coaching staff has reunited Hain with his linemates from last season and moved Blaisdell off of that unit. The Winnipeg Jets draft pick hasn't scored without being alongside Senden and Smith. Blaisdell enters this week on a 23-game goal drought going back to Oct. 18 in Mankato. But if he gets another shot with Senden and Smith, who are excellent with offensive zone possession, Blaisdell should get chances and, perhaps, he will get on the scoreboard again.

UND freshman forward Harrison Blaisdell (8) clears the puck out of the Fighting Hawks' zone in the second period of a home exhibition game against the Manitoba Bisons. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
UND freshman forward Harrison Blaisdell (8) clears the puck out of the Fighting Hawks' zone in the second period of a home exhibition game against the Manitoba Bisons. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

The prediction: Sweep

St. Cloud State entered the season facing massive turnover. The Huskies lost their top four scorers and five of their top six. That usually means a lot of players are assuming new roles and a slow start to the season can be expected. That happened. St. Cloud State won just two of its first 12 games. But as expected, the Huskies have grown into their roles and are much better now (9-6-1 in last 16) than when they faced UND in November. Expect close games. Don't be surprised if at least one of them is higher scoring.

UND 4-3, 3-2

UND's Cole Smith and St. Cloud State defenseman Luke Jaycox (6) watch as Huskies goalie David Hrenak deflects a Fighting Hawks shot at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
UND's Cole Smith and St. Cloud State defenseman Luke Jaycox (6) watch as Huskies goalie David Hrenak deflects a Fighting Hawks shot at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Stories to read

Feature: Peter Thome's moment in the spotlight comes after years of battling through setbacks

News: UND conserving its hockey stick supply with the coronavirus causing problems for China-based factories

News: One site appears to be frontrunner as UND hockey begins work on 2022 destination game

Story: Peter Thome helps keep teammates out of penalty box during UND's sweep of Denver

Q&A: UND defenseman Andrew Peski talks senior year, speaking French and more

College Hockey News: UND flying at No. 1

Pairwise Rankings

1. North Dakota 23-3-3

2. MSU-Mankato 26-4-2

3. Cornell 19-2-4

4. Minnesota Duluth 17-9-2

5. Denver 17-8-5

6. Boston College 19-8-1

7. Clarkson 22-6-2

8. UMass 18-9-2

9. Northeastern 17-8-3

10. Penn State 19-10-3

11. Arizona State 22-9-3

12. Bemidji State 18-8-4

13. Ohio State 16-10-4

14. Maine 16-10-4

15. Western Michigan 15-10-5

16. UMass Lowell 15-7-5

17. Minnesota 14-11-5

18. Quinnipiac 18-10-2

19. Providence 15-9-6

20. Michigan 15-12-3

21. Boston University 12-9-8

22. Notre Dame 12-12-6

23. Michigan State 14-15-1

24. Northern Michigan 16-12-4

25. Omaha 12-13-5

USCHO rankings

1. North Dakota (49 first-place votes) 23-3-3

2. Cornell 19-2-4

3. MSU-Mankato (1) 26-4-2

4. Minnesota Duluth 17-9-2

5. Clarkson 22-6-2

6. Boston College 19-8-1

7. Denver 17-8-5

8. UMass 18-9-2

9. Arizona State 22-9-3

10. Northeastern 17-8-3

11. Penn State 19-10-3

12. Ohio State 16-10-4

13. Bemidji State 18-8-4

14. UMass Lowell 15-9-5

15. Providence 15-9-6

16. Quinnipiac 18-10-2

17. Maine 16-10-4

18. Minnesota 14-11-5

19. Western Michigan 15-10-5

20. Harvard 11-8-6

Team stats

UND

Scoring

29 Jordan Kawaguchi, jr, f 15-29--44

18 Collin Adams, jr, f 10-16--26

3 Matt Kiersted, jr, d 5-20--25

22 Shane Pinto, fr, f 14-10--24

11 Westin Michaud, sr, f 13-11--24

24 J. Bernard-Docker, so, d 4-16--20

16 Grant Mismash, jr, f 8-11--19

14 Jasper Weatherby, so, f 10-7--17

26 Cole Smith, sr, f 10-6--16

6 Colton Poolman, sr, d 2-11--13

17 Jonny Tychonick, so, d 4-7--11

28 Judd Caulfield, fr, f 3-8--11

19 Mark Senden, so, f 5-5--10

10 Gavin Hain, so, f 2-8--10

8 Harrison Blaisdell, fr, f 2-8--10

4 Andrew Peski, sr, d 1-9--10

9 Dixon Bowen, sr, f 6-2--8

21 Jackson Keane, jr, f 1-3--4

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

15 Ethan Frisch, fr, d 1-2--3

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

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

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

5 Casey Johnson, sr, f 1-0--1

1 Peter Thome, jr, g 0-0--0

35 Harrison Feeney, fr, g NA

13 Carson Albrecht, fr, f NA

Goaltending

31 Adam Scheel, so 17-3-2 2.08 .903

1 Peter Thome, jr 6-0-1 1.26 .940

35 Harrison Feeney, fr NA

ST. CLOUD STATE

Scoring

26 Easton Brodzinski, jr, f 12-12--24

19 Sam Hentges, so, f 7-16--23

12 Jack Ahcan, sr, d 6-16--22

7 Nick Poehling, sr, f 7-13--20

3 Jack Poehling, sr, f 6-9--15

15 Micah Miller, so, f 6-8--14

25 Nick Perbix, so, d 4-8--12

27 Chase Brand, fr, f 5-6--11

21 Jake Wahlin, sr, f 4-7--11

13 Jami Krannila, fr, f 3-7--10

20 Nolan Walker, so, f 1-9--10

28 Kevin Fitzgerald, 3-6--9

9 Spencer Meier, so, d 3-5--8

14 Zach Okabe, fr, f 5-1--6

5 Ondrej Trejbal, fr, d 0-6--6

6 Luke Jaycox, jr, d 4-1--5

16 Will Hammer, jr, f 3-1--4

2 Clark Kuster, sr, d 1-2--3

10 Kyler Kupka, fr, f 0-2--2

17 Thomas Rocco, fr, f 0-2--2

8 Tyler Anderson, jr, d 0-1--1

18 Brendan Bushy, so, d 0-0--0

34 David Hrenak, jr, g 0-0--0

40 Jaxon Castor, fr, g 0-0--0

30 Joey Lamoreaux, fr, g 0-0--0

Goaltending

34 David Hrenak, jr 10-8-5 2.73 .903

40 Jaxon Castor, fr 1-4-0 3.65 .859

30 Joey Lamoreaux, fr 0-0-0 1.98 .933