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UND expecting two players back for St. Cloud State series

The Fighting Hawks still won't be at full strength, but they're getting closer as they near the midway point of the season.

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Fighting Hawks freshman forward Matteo Costantini slams the puck past Denver goaltender Magnus Chrona (30) to boost UND to a 1-0 lead in the second period of a home hockey game on Friday, November 5, 2021. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

UND is expecting to get a couple of players back in the lineup for this weekend's series at St. Cloud State.

Rookie forwards Matteo Costantini and Jackson Kunz have both been full participants in practice this week and should be available for coach Brad Berry come this weekend.

No. 7 UND plays at No. 5 St. Cloud State at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday in a top-10 showdown between teams that have combined for seven of eight Penrose Cups as National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season champions. Both games will be televised by Midco Sports.

Costantini, of St. Catharines, Ont., missed the last four games with an illness.

Prior to that, Costantini had been emerging as a key player for the Fighting Hawks. He was on a five-game point streak, holding down the left wing spot on the second line and playing on the second power-play unit.

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"He's doing really well," Berry said. "Obviously, he was out of our lineup here for probably close to a week to 10 days. Any time you're not physically involved in a day-to-day of keeping and maintaining what you already have, you lose a little bit. He hasn't lost a whole lot. He kept himself in pretty good shape. Obviously, going through a full week of practice with us here, he looks good."

Berry indicated he's optimistic that Costantini can play his regular minutes.

"Until you get into the game and get the minutes, you really don't know," Berry said. "But we think his tank is full. He's a young guy that's energized and excited to get going again."

Kunz, a former Grand Forks Red River player, sustained an upper-body injury in the third period of UND's win at Miami on Nov. 13. Kunz did not practice at all the last two weeks.

"He was out for a little bit longer period of time," Berry said. "He's done a good job of maintaining his conditioning. We've been working a little bit extra on the ice on the conditioning side, too, just to make sure he's ready to go."

Kunz, who has a goal and an assist in nine games this season, had been playing wing on UND's fourth line.

Calder, Hentges still sidelined

The Fighting Hawks are expected to be without Ashton Calder, who was injured during the third period last Friday when Minnesota forward Blake McLaughlin slashed Calder on the arm. Calder did not play in the series finale.

Calder, a senior winger, is tied with Riese Gaber as UND's leading goal scorer with seven. Calder ranks third on the team in points with 14 in 14 games.

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Prior to Saturday night's absence, Calder had played in 114 consecutive games dating back to November of his freshman season at Lake Superior State. He had played in 121 of 122 games during his college career.

St. Cloud State will be without one key player for the series.

Senior forward Sam Hentges, who has not played since Oct. 22, will miss this weekend's series, according to The Rink Live's Mick Hatten .

Hentges has five points in five games this season for the Huskies. He's expected back in the second half of the season.

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The Fighting Hawks celebrate Jackson Kunz’s (29) first goal in the second period against Bemidji State on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. (Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service)

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