Judd Caulfield grew up in Grand Forks watching North Dakota vs. Minnesota rivalry hockey games.

The UND junior winger got his first opportunity to play in one as a freshman, when the Fighting Hawks traveled to Minneapolis to play Minnesota in a two-game series Thanksgiving weekend. UND swept that one, winning 9-3 and 3-2. This weekend, Caulfield will get to do it at home.

The No. 6 Fighting Hawks host the No. 11 Gophers at 7:07 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Caulfield spoke to the Herald this week about his North Dakota-Minnesota memories and his thoughts on the upcoming weekend.

Q. Growing up in Grand Forks, I’m sure you attended your share of North Dakota-Minnesota games. What do you remember about them? Do any in particular stand out?

A. I wouldn’t say I remember any in particular. I just know it was always a battle whenever these two teams played. It’s a rivalry that goes back forever. Unfortunately, I kind of remember that 0.6 second one that wasn’t at The Ralph here. But that one definitely sticks out in my mind. As a UND fan, growing up, that’s been dawning on me for a while. Definitely, two years back, my freshman year, going down to Minneapolis was incredible. The fans traveled with us and it felt like a home game there. We know what the atmosphere is going to be like here and we’re just really excited to be playing in that.

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Q. What was it like when you got on the ice and experienced the rivalry as a player for the first time?

A. It was incredible, just stepping out there in warmups and seeing all the green in the stands. It’s something you kind of take for granted once in a while. You don’t really realize how great our fans are. Even that Nashville game, it was incredible. It’s really something special. Getting to pound the Gophers 9-3, too, that was something I’ll always remember. Then, coming back Saturday again, they put up a battle that second night, but we still got away with a win there. That sweep was something pretty special.

Q. Is it extra exciting to be able to play this rivalry in Grand Forks this time?

A. I’m pumped to play here in Grand Forks. Growing up, I played bubble hockey in the lounge. It was always Sioux vs. Gophers. It’s something cool that I’m looking forward to a lot.

Q. What do you think The Ralph is going to be like this weekend?

A. It’s going to be packed. There will be a bunch of family in town for Thanksgiving. They’ll come out to the game Friday and Saturday. It’s going to be really rowdy. It’s going to be a physical game and it’s going to be just like the old WCHA.

Q. Only four guys on the team have played in this rivalry. Have you guys been talking with the new players about what to expect?

A. I think all the guys just kind of understand the rivalry, even if you didn’t grow up watching UND, you kind of know North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s a big rivalry there. They’ve both been powerhouses over the last 50, 60 years. It’s something where all the young guys appreciate the rivalry and us older guys, too, we’ve been in it, we’ve played in it and we’re really looking forward to this.

Q. What did you guys do well in Mariucci Arena two years ago that you want to see carried over to this weekend?

A. We just stuck to our identity. We played hard, physical hockey and we didn’t get frustrated when things weren’t going our way. I think we took a penalty in one of the first shifts, but we just stuck to our game and just got a good penalty kill, a good power play and guys were just playing their roles. Nobody was trying to do too much.

Q. How has this year gone for you personally?

A. I think it’s been going well. It’s been fun playing with (Riese) Gaber and (Jake) Schmaltz. They’re unreal players, so they make the game a lot easier for me. It’s been nice as a team. We’ve been having some good success. When we play to our identity, I feel like we’re a top team in the nation and we can do a lot of special things with this group, but we just have to stick to our identity and play like we know how to play.

Q. You’re playing down low on the top power-play unit this season. What are your thoughts on being there?

A. I feel pretty comfortable. That’s a spot I played in a little bit last year. I like being down low. It works to my strengths. I’m a bigger body, so I can get in front of the goalie’s eyes. Gaber always finds his spots when he shoots, so it’s kind of nice getting to be out there on the power play.

Q. Both Gaber and Jake Sanderson are shooters on that power-play unit. What is it like playing that spot when you know they like to shoot?

A. You know they’re going to do incredible things out there, so if they see any opening, you know they’re going to find that spot. My job is pretty easy, just to stand in front and let those guys do the hard work. It’s fun to see those guys wheel around and make special plays up top.