The UND hockey team played most of the 10-game National Collegiate Hockey Conference Pod in December shorthanded due to injuries and key players at the World Junior Championship.
It coasted through its first three games outside of the Pod, finally dropping the third one 4-1 at Denver.
"It was a little bit of a wake-up call," forward Shane Pinto said.
Now, nearly healthy and fully engaged, UND is showing just how good it can be this season.
The Fighting Hawks finished off a convincing two-game sweep of Colorado College with a 5-0 victory on Sunday night in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The game never seemed in doubt after Pinto went coast-to-coast in the first period for a goal. He had two on the night, while Collin Adams, Judd Caulfield and Grant Mismash each added one. UND more than doubled Colorado College in shots on goal each night.
Since the loss to Denver, UND is now 3-0 and has outscored its opponents 14-2 in those games.
Goalie Adam Scheel, who posted a 15-save shutout, has a .970 save percentage in that span.
"I just think everybody's finding their stride right now, continually playing on weekends and building momentum," UND coach Brad Berry said. "I think the biggest thing is we saw what our bar is the second night in Denver. We know we can play to our capabilities in a 60-minute game like the second game in Denver. That's our challenge. That's what we're striving to push for each and every game: to play a full, 60-minute game and everybody playing that game. Not half the team, but everybody. We want to make sure we're at that bar and above it."
The Fighting Hawks are hitting that bar.
They're 9-1 in their last 10 games and 12-3-1 on the season.
They're 22-1 in their last 23 home games, including Sunday night's win in front of 1,775 fans.
They're in the driver's seat to win a second-straight Penrose Cup as NCHC champions, sitting two points ahead of St. Cloud State with one extra game to play.
"When you look up and down our lineup from a forward group and a 'D' group, everybody is playing at their highest level and a high pace," Berry said. "I think it all starts in practice. When you have the reps and you build your identity and the way you want to play, it starts in practice and it carries over into a game. That's one of the things we want to do is make sure our practices are intense, they're high-paced and they're competitive."
Colorado College, which played toe-to-toe with UND in back-to-back games Jan. 10-11 in Colorado Springs, was overrun by the Fighting Hawks in Grand Forks.
Pinto scored on an end-to-end rush just 4:06 into the game. Then, UND broke it open with three goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second -- Adams on a breakaway, Pinto from the high slot and Caulfield on a rebound.
Mismash scored the final goal on the power play in the third, tapping home a backdoor feed from defenseman Jake Sanderson.
"That first night in Denver, we were a little slow to start and they hopped on us and dominated us that game," said Caulfield, who scored his first of the season Sunday. "Ever since then, we developed that mentality that we have to be hard all over the ice and we have to outwork them."
Pinto, who had four points on the weekend, is now the NCHC's leading scorer with 18, one ahead of teammate Jordan Kawaguchi, Minnesota Duluth's Nick Swaney and St. Cloud State's Veeti Miettinen.
"I think it was going pretty well in the Pod," Pinto said, "and we came out with two wins against CC that first weekend (after the Pod), but we weren't really playing well. That first game against Denver gave us a wake-up call. We've been much better ever since. There's a lot to build on. Obviously, it was a good weekend for us.
"I think we're just being harder on pucks, just playing our game. We've just have to be physical and keep doing the right things. I think we were cheating a little bit in Colorado, thinking it was just going to come easy to us. I think this weekend, we really worked for our chances. We have to continue that if we want to keep winning here."
UND has eight regular-season games remaining, six against Omaha and two against Denver.
Five of those eight games are scheduled for Ralph Engelstad Arena, where the Fighting Hawks were able to give the fans a stick salute after the sweep of Colorado College.
"We usually don't go back in history and talk about the past years," Berry said. "But we did. We had to, because last year, we were 18-1 in this building. We set an identity with the way we wanted to play and make it hard on the other teams. Our younger guys had to know that. We talked about it the week beforehand.
"It's a very special place here. There's not a lot of places in the country that have what we have here with the rink and fans and staff and everything like that. It's something we want to make sure we protect and keep moving forward here."