Defenseman Ethan Frisch set to return for series against Western Michigan
UND's alternate captain missed last weekend's series at St. Cloud State.
GRAND FORKS — Last week, UND allowed more goals in a two-game series than it has in 21 seasons.
This week, it will play on the road against the nation's No. 1-ranked offense.
It's a good time for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's defensive defenseman of the year to be coming back into the lineup.
Senior Ethan Frisch, who has missed the last three games due to a lower-body injury, will be back in the lineup at 6 p.m. Friday when the Fighting Hawks take on Western Michigan in Lawson Ice Arena.
"He's been skating every practice and he'll be playing Friday night, absolutely," UND coach Brad Berry said.
Barring something unforeseen, Friday's game will mark the first time all season UND has all eight defensemen available to play.
Frisch, Tyler Kleven, Cooper Moore and Luke Bast have all missed time due to injuries. Brent Johnson missed a series due to illness.
Chris Jandric and Ty Farmer are UND's only defensemen who have played in every game this season.
The blue liners and goaltenders will have their work cut out for them against a Broncos team that's averaging 4.2 goals per game. Western Michigan is led by its potent top line of Ryan McAllister, Max Sasson and Jason Polin — three of the top four scorers in all of college hockey.
McAllister is the nation's top scorer by a wide margin with 33 points in 18 games. Polin is second nationally in goals (13) and third in points (24). Sasson, the center, is fourth in points (23).
"In that barn, where a lot of things happen quick — they obviously get pucks to the net quite a bit from all different areas — it's being alert," Berry said. "Before we get into our defensive zone, it's making sure we play well in their offensive zone and in the neutral zone. Then, when we're in the defensive zone, it's making sure we don't give up and freebies in front of the net. They have to earn everything they get. That's the biggest thing."
Home ice played a big role in the season series between the Fighting Hawks and Broncos last season.
Western Michigan swept the series in Kalamazoo. UND swept the series in Grand Forks.
"It's a loud environment," Berry said of Lawson Ice Arena. "Obviously, you want to communicate with your teammates and be verbal and talk through it. But in a loud environment, you have to have the predictability to your teammates that you're going to keep advancing the puck, you're going to keep pushing it out of your end of the rink, you're going to play in their end of the rink. And when it does get into end, simplify your game and play a hard game."
UND alternate captain Louis Jamernik V said the veterans have let the younger players know about the lively environment in Lawson.
"You definitely don't want to take a penalty there," Jamernik V said. "They have a whole group of people wrapped around the glass and they'll let you know about your whole life and all your problems."
UND at No. 17 Western Michigan
When: 6:05 p.m. Friday, 5:05 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Lawson Ice Arena, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).