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Men's hockey: UND to take on potent offense

ST. PAUL -- Hours after completing one tough task, the UND men's hockey team was handed another. The newly crowned Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champion Sioux are headed to Worcester, Mass., to take on the nation's top-scoring of...

ST. PAUL -- Hours after completing one tough task, the UND men's hockey team was handed another.

The newly crowned Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champion Sioux are headed to Worcester, Mass., to take on the nation's top-scoring offense in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

UND, carrying a No. 2 seed, will play third-seeded Yale at 4 p.m. Saturday in DCU Center. The other teams in Worcester are No. 1 seed Boston College and No. 4 seed Alaska-Fairbanks.

TV details have not yet been released.

Wisconsin (No. 1 seed in St. Paul), St. Cloud State (No. 2 seed in St. Paul) and Denver (No. 1 seed in Albany, N.Y.) also will represent the WCHA in the NCAA tournament.

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If UND is to advance out of the first round, it will have to slow down an explosive offense.

Yale is the country's only team averaging more than 4 goals per game. The 20-9-3 Bulldogs have four players averaging more than a point per game, led by junior forward Broc Little, who leads the country in goals per game (26 in 32 games). Teammate Brian O'Neill has 39 points in 32 games.

The Bulldogs make their mark on the power play, where they are converting at 23.5 percent -- second-best in the country.

"I've seen them play a little bit and they are a good team," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "They have a lot of speed, very good skill and they are tenacious. They have a veteran roster. They've been building there and they've had some pretty good success the last couple of years. They are full value for the year they've had."

The biggest positive about UND's draw is that the games will be played Saturday and Sunday, not Friday-Saturday like two of the regionals. That will give the Sioux some extra rest after playing six games in nine days on their run to the Broadmoor Trophy.

"I like the extra day for our team," Hakstol said. "That completely takes out of play any potential fatigue issues. I don't know that we would have had any if we played Friday, but this takes it out for sure."

UND also has had some success in the DCU Center. This is the place where the Sioux beat Boston University and Boston College en route to making the 2005 NCAA Frozen Four in Hakstol's first season as head coach.

The Sioux had a lot previous history against those teams, but they do not against Yale. This will be UND's first-ever postseason meeting against the Bulldogs.

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It will be a contrast of strengths. Yale will bring the offense and UND will bring the defense. UND has the fourth-best scoring defense in the country and the sixth-best penalty kill nationally.

The Sioux (25-12-5) are making their eighth straight NCAA tournament appearance -- the longest streak among WCHA teams. And they appear to be hitting their stride, winning 12 of the last 13 games.

"Last weekend, we went through some challenges that will make us better," Hakstol said. "We will continue to learn and gain confidence. We have a big challenge in front of us. It's a tough draw, but we'll be ready for the challenge on Saturday afternoon."

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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