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Q&A with UND senior forward Gavin Hain

The Grand Rapids, Minn., product and his classmate, Mark Senden, are the only two players on the Fighting Hawks' roster who played in the last destination game in Las Vegas in 2018.

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North Dakota forward Gavin Hain (10) scores the team's first goal on Western Michigan goaltender Austin Cain (1) in the first period Sunday, Dec. 6, at Baxter Arena in the NCHC Pod in Omaha. Tyler Schank / Duluth News Tribune

The last time UND played in a destination game was 2018 against the University of Minnesota in Las Vegas.

Only two players remain on UND's roster from that game — senior forwards Gavin Hain and Mark Senden. They'll both be in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night, getting a chance to participate in another one.

Hain spoke to the Herald this week about the Las Vegas experience and his expectations for the Nashville game against Penn State.

Q. You and Mark Senden are the only two players left on the team who played in the 2018 U.S. Hall of Fame Game in Las Vegas. What do you remember about that one?

A. It was my first year and I didn’t know the level that Sioux fans travel. When we were walking through all the fans and into the game, that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, just seeing how well the fans travel. It was the same type of scenario warming up outside (of the arena) and all the Sioux fans hanging out. We were right there by them. That was really the first time seeing how well everyone travels.

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Q. What do you remember about the atmosphere in Orleans Arena?

A. It was awesome. When we scored the winning goal with like nine minutes left, that place just erupted. It was unbelievable. It was a smaller venue, but completely full. You couldn’t see any open seats anywhere. Obviously, they were all Sioux fans and everyone was on our side.

Q. Is that extra motivating to play in front of crowds like that?

A. Definitely, especially when you get that many fans at an away venue. When that many fans are dedicated to coming to watch you play, you feel obligated to perform your best and give them a win. You have a little more motivation to not just play for your teammates and the team, but also for the dedicated fans that took time out of their schedules to come that far to watch you.

Q. Wasn’t the Vegas game when you played on a line with Senden and Cole Smith for the first time?

A. It could have been. I was sick. I wasn’t supposed to play. I wasn’t feeling great. I was supposed to be the extra forward and play a few shifts. Then, Grant (Mismash) got that five-minute (major) and got kicked out like in the first four or five minutes. Then, I ended up getting normal shifts.

Q. Was it tough to play in that game while you weren’t feeling well?

A. Honestly, no. When we got out there and saw how pumped all the fans were, playing against Minnesota, it wasn’t a hard game to get focused up on. Obviously, I didn’t feel my best and wasn’t able to play to the best of my ability. I was able to do what I had to do and get fired up and play hard.

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Q. How do you feel about getting another opportunity to play in another destination game in Nashville this weekend?

A. I’m pumped. Obviously, me and Mark are both pumped. I know the class last year is pretty disappointed they’re going to miss out on it. They know how special and fun it would have been. Me and Mark and the rest of us feel pretty special and happy to experience this.

Q. How has the start of the season gone for you?

A. It’s been good. Obviously, the first weekend, I still had an injury (and was held out). It’s still hanging around a little bit, but it’s been good to get in four games now. I’m just really excited for the rest of the year and for us to keep building as a team. We have a lot of new guys. Last weekend was a good one for us to grow tighter as a group and grow tighter as a team. We’re all pretty excited.

Q. A lot of guys said they thought the team learned how it has to play to win games Saturday at Quinnipiac. Did you feel that way, too?

A. One of the things we talked about, kind of as a new group, was figuring out our identity as a team. We came together after a pretty tough loss on Friday. We responded well on Saturday. Now, we have in our minds how we need to play to be successful.

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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