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UND hockey set to open the season with an exhibition Saturday. . . and no capacity limit

The Fighting Hawks will take on the Beavers, but the game won't count.

092321 S GFH UNDHKYMEDIADAY ZachDriscoll AshtonCalder02.jpg
UND goaltender Zach Driscoll stops a point-blank shot from Fighting Hawks forward Ashton Calder (16) during morning practice at Ralph Engelstad Arena on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

For the first time in 581 days, UND will play a men's hockey home game without a crowd capacity limit.

When the Fighting Hawks play an exhibition game against Bemidji State at 6:07 p.m. tonight in Ralph Engelstad Arena, it will mark the first time the building has allowed more than 3,000 fans at a game since the initial outbreak of the coronavirus 19 months ago.

The last full capacity game was on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2020.

UND beat Western Michigan 2-1 in overtime that night on a Shane Pinto goal to win the Penrose Cup as National Collegiate Hockey Conference champions.

Last season, the Fighting Hawks played the first portion of the schedule in a bubble in Omaha. They played 10 games in The Ralph after January, including the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. The largest home crowd was 3,000, which occurred in the championship game.

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This season, no capacity restrictions are planned.

"We're very excited," UND coach Brad Berry said. "We went through the season last year with limited fans in the stands. We're excited to have a packed house here at The Ralph and having Bemidji State as our opponent for the exhibition game."

Of the 27 players on UND's roster, only seven have played in a Ralph Engelstad Arena with no capacity limits -- Mark Senden, Gavin Hain, Judd Caulfield, Ethan Frisch, Carson Albrecht, Brendan Budy and Zach Driscoll. Driscoll did it as a member of Bemidji State's team.

The other 20 players will be getting a new experience this season.

"I've heard nothing but great things about playing in this building," said fifth-year senior Connor Ford, a Bowling Green transfer. "So, I'm really starting to itch for game night."

Some players will sit

UND will be without at least two players for the exhibition.

Budy (lower body) and Carson Albrecht (undisclosed), both forwards, missed practice this week and will be held out of Saturday night's contest.

Because it's an exhibition, Berry is expected to be cautious with others who may not be 100 percent.

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"We've got a couple guys who are nicked up a little bit," Berry said. "At the end of the day, we're going to try to get as many guys into the game. We're playing against Bemidji, a very good team and it's going to be a very competitive game, but at the same time, we need to get a body of work on our players here, getting some reps in game-like situations."

Casey attends practice ahead of HoF induction

Former UND goaltending great Jon Casey attended practice Friday morning.

Casey, a member of UND's 1982 NCAA national championship team, is being inducted into UND's Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend alongside former UND women's hockey and softball standout Casie Hanson and football player Mike Mooney.

Casey played at UND from 1980-84 before embarking on a 12-year NHL career, primarily with the Minnesota North Stars. Casey also played for the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues.

Trupp shirts available

The Sioux Shop at Ralph Engelstad Arena is selling Evan Trupp t-shirts.

All proceeds will go to Trupp, who is fighting Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Trupp played four seasons for UND from 2007-11, racking up 108 career points and helping the team to the NCAA Frozen Four twice.

Season-opening exhibition

Who: Bemidji State at UND.

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When: 6:07 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.

TV: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27/622).

Webcast: NCHC.tv.

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

Of note: The NCAA approved a waiver allowing exhibition games against other NCAA teams this season.

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