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Preview: Miami at No. 19 UND

The RedHawks will be without their first-line center for the series in Grand Forks.

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UND's Riese Gaber flips the puck past Miami goalie Ludvig Persson in the first period for an early UND goal. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service
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GRAND FORKS — Miami did not come to Ralph Engelstad Arena last season.

It only played one game in the building during 2020-21 — the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff quarterfinal.

UND scored 14 seconds into that game and was up 3-0 by the 5:36 mark.

Miami coach Chris Bergeron will be warning his team against letting that happen Friday, when UND and Miami open their two-game series in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

"We've got to start on time," Bergeron said. "I think they're going to push really hard in the first five, 10 minutes because of what happened last weekend and being at home and so on. I think, for the most part this year, we've started on time. But (Friday) is a whole other list of problems when you're talking about North Dakota. I really think playing 60 minutes and absolutely starting on time is key."

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It has been just over three years since Miami has played a two-game series in Grand Forks.

The last came on Nov. 8-9, 2019. UND won the series opener 7-1 and edged the RedHawks 5-4 in the series finale.

The only meeting between the teams last season came in Oxford, Ohio. UND swept 4-1 and 5-4. The RedHawks went 3-for-8 on the power play on the weekend.

This weekend, the power-play units will look quite a bit different.

Bergeron said forwards Red Savage and Max Dukovac — regulars on the power-play unit — did not make the trip to Grand Forks due to injuries.

"If you're giving me a list of things we need to do this weekend, special teams are going to be key," Bergeron said. "North Dakota's special teams are really good. Ours have been inconsistent — first six (games) pretty good, last six haven't been as good. Where our special teams start is staying out of the penalty box. We've had some really untimely penalties over the course of the season and it's hurt us. We cannot do that. The look of the power play will be what it is. It will be different. Maybe we'll load up one (unit) and ride them a little bit. We'll see how it goes."

Defensively, Miami has been improved so far this season.

Last season, Miami gave up more goals than any team in the nation outside of St. Thomas, a first-year Division-I program. The RedHawks allowed 4.25 per game.

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But right now, Miami is giving up 2.83 goals per game, which is tied with Minnesota Duluth, Notre Dame and Colorado College for 33rd nationally.

The RedHawks enter this weekend having not allowed a five-on-five goal in 136 minutes, 25 seconds. They did not allow an even-strength goal last weekend against Colorado College.

"I thought we defended hard," Bergeron said. "That's where it starts. Defending is a decision. You have to defend hard. We did that. I thought, for the most part, we didn't give them multiple opportunities. In the last three years, we spent a lot of time in our own zone. I don't feel we've spent as much time in our own zone over the last little bit."

Bergeron said his defenders have done a better job eliminating second chances.

"(It's been) one and done — maybe one second effort — then we're out," Bergeron said. "I don't think it was second, third, fourth, fifth opportunities by us turning pucks over and having to defend more."

Injury report

UND
D Tyler Kleven (lower) probable, D Cooper Moore (undisclosed) questionable, D Luke Bast (upper) doubtful, F Dane Montgomery (upper) out

Miami
F Red Savage (upper) out, F Max Dukovac (undisclosed) out

The focus: G Ludvig Persson

Miami has a game-changing player in net in Ludvig Persson. The junior from Sweden has been outstanding since he first stepped in net during the 2020 NCHC Pod. This season, he has started every game for the RedHawks and has posted a .918 save percentage. Persson has game-stealing ability between the pipes.

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Pick to click: F Matteo Costantini

Sophomore forward Matteo Costantini has started slow this season, tallying one assist in nine games. But his line with Griffin Ness and Nick Portz earned some praise last weekend from coach Brad Berry for how they played. When Costantini is on his game, he plays fast and has an ability to finish. He's due for a breakthrough this weekend.

Tale of the tape

UNDStatMIA
3.45 (14th)Off.2.08 (47th)
3.18 (47th)Def.2.83 (33rd)
31.4 (4th)PP18.4 (36th)
85.4 (9th)PK78.3 (40th)
.879 (56th)SP.911 (19th)
55.0 (8th)FO45.1 (56th)

National rank in parenthesis. Categories are offense, defense, power play, penalty kill, save percentage and faceoff percentage.

The call: UND sweep

It has been an up-and-down start for the Fighting Hawks this season. That is to be expected, in part, considering the difficult schedule to open the season. The Fighting Hawks have played three of the nation's top five teams in the last month. But at some point, UND has to start making a move. This weekend, UND is at home against a Miami team that's without its first-line center. This is a prime opportunity for UND to lock things down defensively and start getting some wins.

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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