OMAHA, Neb. -- UND will take on Minnesota Duluth at 7:35 p.m. Thursday in its fifth of 10 games in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod.
Here are five things to know about the matchup, which will be on Midco Sports Network and NCHC.tv:
Only meetings are in the Pod
Because of the NCHC's pandemic-altered scheduling format, UND will play Minnesota Duluth twice in the Pod, then they will not play again for the rest of the regular season.
The second Pod meeting will be at noon on Saturday, Dec. 19.
Minnesota Duluth did not travel to Grand Forks last season, either. So, if the Bulldogs do not end up in Grand Forks during the playoffs, it will mark the first time since 1960-61 and 1961-62 that Minnesota Duluth missed the Grand Forks trip in consecutive seasons.
UND's remaining Pod games are against St. Cloud State (4:05 p.m. Saturday), Western Michigan (4:05 p.m. Sunday), St. Cloud State (7:35 p.m. Wednesday), Minnesota Duluth (noon, Dec. 19) and Miami (8:05 p.m., Dec. 20).
The final unbeaten
Minnesota Duluth is the final remaining unbeaten team in the NCHC Pod.
The Bulldogs are 4-0. They opened with a 5-3 win over Omaha. Then, they beat Denver 2-1 with a pair of power-play goals in the last seven minutes of the game. Their two wins this week have been against Miami, 5-3 on Sunday and 4-2 on Tuesday.
UND enters the game 3-1 with wins over Miami (2-0), Western Michigan (8-2) and Denver (4-3 overtime). UND's lone loss came Tuesday against Denver (3-2).
They're the top teams in the NCHC along with 3-1 St. Cloud State.
First time since the Target Center
Nobody on UND's roster has shot a puck at a Minnesota Duluth goaltender outside of Hunter Shepard.
Shepard has played every minute of every game between the teams for the past three seasons. There were nine matchups during that time (the Bulldogs held the edge 5-4).
The last time someone other than Shepard started against UND was March 18, 2017, in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game in the Target Center. The Bulldogs won that penalty-filled game 4-3 on a five-on-three power-play goal with less than a minute remaining. Hunter Miska was in the net for that game.
That also was the last NCHC game played at the Target Center. The league moved its postseason tournament to St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center after that.
Prior to Shepard's run, Miska started five-straight games against UND. So, the last time the Fighting Hawks faced a goalie not named Hunter was March 18, 2016, also at the Target Center.
That will change Thursday. Shepard has graduated and Minnesota Duluth will roll with sophomore Ryan Fanti (3-0, .920 save percentage, 2.33 goals-against average) or freshman Zach Stejskal (1-0, .920, 2.00). Fanti started the first three games before getting Tuesday off.
The Pod's top two scorers go head-to-head
Minnesota Duluth and UND have the top two scorers in the NCHC Pod.
Bulldog senior Nick Swaney, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, has eight points in four games to lead the league. Swaney has a goal and seven assists. He had a three-point game Tuesday against Miami.
UND sophomore Shane Pinto, who was named the NCHC's forward of the week to start the Pod, has seven points in four games, one shy of Swaney. Pinto had two points against Miami, three against Western Michigan and another two against Denver. On top of that, Pinto is the NCAA's top faceoff man at 71.1 percent.
Last season, Swaney had a goal and an assist in two games vs. UND, while Pinto had two assists in two games against the Bulldogs.
The game also features the NCHC's leading goal-scorer. Warroad's Kobe Roth, a Bulldog senior, has five goals in four games. He's tied with Denver freshman Carter Savoie for the league lead.
Special teams are shining
UND is the NCHC's penalty minutes leader, averaging 12.8 per game, but it may want to be careful to stay out of the box Thursday.
The Fighting Hawks and Bulldogs have been the two best power-play teams in the NCHC.
UND is converting at a 35 percent clip, while Minnesota Duluth is at 29.4.
The Fighting Hawks have spread out the power-play scoring. They have scored seven power-play goals and they've all come from different people: Pinto, Collin Adams, Jake Sanderson, Gabe Bast, Jordan Kawaguchi, Matt Kiersted and Grant Mismash.
Pinto, Kawaguchi and Kiersted all have four power-play points.
For the Bulldogs, brothers Noah and Jackson Cates each have two power-play goals, while Roth has one.
Swaney has four power-play points, all assists.