Mindful of energy levels, UND alters practice schedules
The Fighting Hawks will take on Colorado College in Ed Robson Arena this weekend.
GRAND FORKS — UND ends practice every Thursday with a team shootout competition.
It's one last fun activity before heading into a weekend series.
If a player scores a goal, he gets to advance to the next round. The last man standing wins.
But last week, for the first time in a few years, there was no weekly shootout competition. In fact, there was no practice at all Thursday morning in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Fighting Hawks changed their practice cadence and took the day off after three hard practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to make sure energy levels were high for the two-game series against St. Cloud State.
UND held a morning skate Friday — which hasn't always been the case — then earned a victory and a tie against the No. 6 Huskies.
Notably, UND was at its best late in the series, dominating the Huskies for much of Saturday's 2-2 tie.
UND possessed the puck in the offensive zone for 19:36 on Saturday night — most of any game the entire season — and kept the Huskies from registering a shot on goal for almost 20 full minutes. St. Cloud State had possession in the offensive zone for just 6:16.
"It was the first time in a long time we gave guys Thursday off," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Then we had a morning skate Friday. I thought that helped with our energy level. . . I thought that helped a lot of guys who had hard, heavy minutes throughout the season."
While it's difficult to know whether the day off contributed to UND's energy levels late in the series — or if this Fighting Hawks team is just hitting its stride — UND is trying it again this week.
The Fighting Hawks took Wednesday off.
They'll travel to Colorado Springs on Thursday and are scheduled to practice in Ed Robson Arena on Thursday night.
UND will play Colorado College at 8:30 p.m. Central on Friday and 7 p.m. Central on Saturday.
"It's one of those situations where you have to keep working on things and getting better," Berry said, "but the other part for us, too, is energy level, especially playing two hard games on a weekend."
UND (13-13-5) still has a chance to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large, but there's not much wiggle room. The Fighting Hawks are No. 21 in the Pairwise Rankings and will need to reach, at a minimum, No. 15 to get in.
"We've got some hunger," Berry said. "We've got some things to prove. Right now, we're fighting for our lives and I know our players feel that way."
Schmaltz's return a boost
Jake Schmaltz returned to the lineup last weekend after missing the last three games due to an injury, and he made an immediate impact.
Schmaltz scored a goal during Friday's comeback — his first since late October — and he helped UND's faceoff numbers by going 30-19 in the dot.
The sophomore center said the team was careful with his injury and didn't rush him back.
"I know with head stuff, you have to be a lot more serious and cautious with that stuff," Schmaltz said. "I know it's something you can't really play through, so you just have to be smart and take everything until you're ready to go. I know we had to be safe and be a little more cautious about that. So, it was good to have some people looking out for me in that sense."
UND at Colorado College
When: 8:30 p.m. Central on Friday, 7 p.m. Central on Saturday.
Where: Ed Robson Arena, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).