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North Dakota-Minnesota rivalry has changed in many ways, but still highlights the schedule

HOLD 101718 UND GOPHERS HOF GAME.jpg.JPG
Minnesota Golden Gophers goaltender Mat Robson (40) defends his goal on his back as North Dakota Fighting Hawks players looks for the rebound during the second period of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Richard Brian / Las Vegas Review-Journal

After UND won the 2016 NCAA national championship, head coach Brad Berry went back to his hotel room.

Berry's family and staff members joined him. They drank a few beers and ordered about 10 pizzas.

Then, at about 1 a.m., there were knocks on the door.

Berry opened it up.

It was Bob Motzko and Tom Serratore.

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Perhaps the veteran college hockey coaches -- Motzko was at St. Cloud State at the time and Serratore at Bemidji State -- just had a wise sense on where they'd find a drink, food and a good time that night in Tampa.

But to Berry, it meant more than that. To him, it showed the bond and respect between the coaches that developed despite the annual intense head-to-head battles on the ice between their teams.

Berry and Motzko will both be in 3M Arena at Mariucci on Thursday and Friday night, but they won't be drinking beers, eating pizza and celebrating together.

They'll be the primary figures on opposite benches of one of college hockey's most heated and contested rivalries, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Berry and Motzko, perhaps, are fitting anecdotes for the state of the rivalry. While these programs are still each other's most-heated foe, and the schools still jack up ticket prices to levels they won't for any other series, things are different than they were a decade ago.

The teams moved to different conferences in 2013 and aren't playing four times a year anymore. Three-fourths of UND's roster has never played in Mariucci and three-fourths of Minnesota's roster has never played in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Nobody on either team has played in a playoff game between the schools.

Motzko, who was at St. Cloud State from 2005-18, is close enough friends with Berry that they celebrated UND's title together.

That would have never been the case with their predecessors, Dave Hakstol at UND and Don Lucia at Minnesota, where there always seemed to be an underlying tension. When Lucia was the head coach at Alaska Fairbanks in the late 1980s, he got a commitment from Hakstol, a defenseman. Ties mysteriously ended up being severed there, but Hakstol always declined to speak beyond that.

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And then there's the truly bizarre fact that, even though it's a holiday weekend with students out of town, the games still aren't sold out yet. That would have been unfathomable a decade ago.

While so many factors are different, so many are still the same.

The tension seems to immediately be pulled back in once the puck is dropped.

When the teams played in 2016-17 for the first time in three years, it took 2 minutes, 18 seconds for the first after-the-whistle penalties and it took less than seven minutes for UND captain Gage Ausmus and Minnesota defenseman Ryan Lindgren to rack up 28 penalty minutes in a scuffle.

In the last three meetings, there have been three major penalties, including two a season ago.

And while this weekend's games aren't sold out yet, these teams are only a year removed from selling out a game 1,500 miles away from either campus in Nevada.

The electric atmosphere in the 7,500-seat Orleans Arena last season was something only these two rivals can bring out. It's clear: Even though they're in different leagues and don't play four times a year, there's nobody each team's fan base wants to beat more than each other.

Perhaps Berry summed it up best this week.

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"I think it's a little bit different in the fact that you don't usually play four games," he said. "But you still know they're there. And, I know, they know we're here."

The players know it, too.

"You know, I'm from Oregon, which is a long way from a lot of college hockey teams," sophomore Jasper Weatherby said. "Growing up, even I knew about this rivalry. So, it's big."

No. 3 UND at Minnesota

When: 7:07 p.m. Thursday, 7:07 p.m. Friday.

Where: 3M Arena at Mariucci.

TV: Fox Sports North (GF Ch. 27/623 HD).

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Webcast: foxsportsgo.com.

Live blog: GrandForksHerald.com.

Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Darian Romanko (26) controls the puck as North Dakota Fighting Hawks defenseman Gabe Bast (2) and forward Grant Mismash (16) defend during the first period of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Richard Brian Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Darian Romanko (26) controls the puck as North Dakota Fighting Hawks defenseman Gabe Bast (2) and forward Grant Mismash (16) defend during the first period of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Richard Brian Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph

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