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Men's hockey: Prolific Badgers come to town

The University of Wisconsin is tied for third in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings. It seems like that's the only place the Badgers aren't in first. They enter this weekend's series against UND with the league's top scoring offe...

The University of Wisconsin is tied for third in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.

It seems like that's the only place the Badgers aren't in first.

They enter this weekend's series against UND with the league's top scoring offense and top scoring defense to go along with the No. 1 goal scorer (Blake Geoffrion), assist scorer (Brendan Smith), overall scorer (Smith), defenseman scorer (Smith) and goaltender (Scott Gudmandson) in the WCHA.

The Badgers (10-5-1 overall, 7-4-1 WCHA) have scored at least six goals in three of their last four games, including 14 in last weekend's sweep of Michigan Tech.

It's a tall task for the 9-5-2 Sioux, who won't play another league series until Jan. 8-9.

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"They are a very good mechanical hockey team," UND goalie Brad Eidsness said. "They play their systems very soundly. Judging by what they've done the last three or four weekends, they're going to get a lot of pucks to the net and drive to the net hard. I think they've got some guys in their lineup that shoot the puck very well.

"You look at their defense and they have a very, very skilled back end with Brendan Smith leading that, so obviously there's a pretty good hockey team coming here this weekend and it's something we're excited for."

Gudmandson, who leads the WCHA with a 1.57 goals-against average, is expected to start back-to-back games for the first time this season. He had been splitting time with Brett Bennett, but Bennett did not travel because of an injury he suffered at practice.

That doesn't mean UND will have a different game plan, though.

"We just have to play our game," defenseman Derrick LaPoint said. "We have to play with speed, limit turnovers and just try to get as many pucks to the net on their goaltender as we can.

"It's been up and down ever since Chay (Genoway) went out, but I think we're finally figuring out ourselves and everyone is figuring out where they're going to be in the lineup. Guys have stepped up and played larger roles. We've been playing well, it's just a matter of winning games in tight situations. That's going to be our focus for the weekend."

The Sioux also want to head into Christmas break as a top-five team in the league. They currently sit in sixth, but are only three points out of second.

"This is our last chances for almost a month to get points," Eidsness said. "You want to go home and have some rest with a little bit better feeling than what we came off of last weekend. You're going to have to look at those standings for a full month."

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LaPoint brothers

on opposite sides

Tonight, LaPoint will be on the opposite bench as his brother.

Nate LaPoint, who spent the last four years as an assistant equipment manager at UND while he went to school, accepted a full-time job with the Badgers during the summer. He is the head equipment manager there.

The LaPoints are from Eau Claire, Wis.

"I figured that question was coming," Derrick said, laughing. "It'll be fun to see him. He's a Badger now, what can you say? I'm sure he's green at heart, but that's his job."

Derrick said he won't be getting any inside secrets from his brother.

"He's pretty tight with his stuff," Derrick said. "He doesn't crack much."

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UND asks fans

to stand at start

The UND athletic department is starting a new fan initiative asking everyone to stand at the beginning of the first period until the first whistle of each game.

It was one of the suggestions during a recent open forum involving UND athletics and UND students for improving atmosphere without vulgarity.

It is similar to the longtime UND basketball tradition of Sioux fans standing until the opposing team scores its first points of the game.

"We've got the best fans in the country. . . students and people from the state of North Dakota," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "We've been all over the country and I can tell you that we have the best fans, the best atmosphere and if this is something that can give us another thing for our students and fans to get excited about, it's a great thing. But make no mistake, we have the greatest fans in college hockey, bar none."

Hockey tourist

to hit The Ralph

Erik Castro, a 35-year-old hockey enthusiast from New York City, plans to make Bemidji's John S. Glas Fieldhouse and UND's Ralph Engelstad Arena the 123rd and 124th hockey arenas that he's visited for a game. Castro's list includes only those of the major junior level or higher.

Castro is attempting to visit every NHL, American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and college venue in North America. He's been to 35 NHL arenas (four defunct) and he's seen hockey games in 33 states.

The Ralph will be his sixth stop in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and his first in North Dakota.

Castro says he's been following hockey for 27 years, since his father shared season tickets for the New Jersey Devils in their inaugural season of 1982.

Briefly

Wisconsin forwards Sean Dolan and Jordy Murray did not travel with the Badgers, the State Journal reported. Murray is the younger brother of former Sioux forward Brady Murray. . . The first 10,000 fans through the door tonight will receive a free cardboard goalie mask courtesy of Dakota Textbook Co. . . UND recruit Brendan O'Donnell was named the player of the game at the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game, which featured the top 40 draft-eligible players competing in Junior A in Canada. O'Donnell had a goal and three assists in Team West's 8-1 win on Tuesday.

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com .

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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