UND MEN'S HOCKEY: Back home above the border
Brendan O'Donnell heard rumors about UND trying to play a men's hockey game in his hometown of Winnipeg. "I thought it might just be an exhibition game," he said. "When the schedule came out and I saw it there on Jan. 7, I was pretty excited abou...
Brendan O'Donnell heard rumors about UND trying to play a men's hockey game in his hometown of Winnipeg.
"I thought it might just be an exhibition game," he said. "When the schedule came out and I saw it there on Jan. 7, I was pretty excited about it. I'm looking forward to it."
O'Donnell is one of three Manitobans who will be in the lineup Saturday night as UND takes on Clarkson University in the U.S. College Hockey Classic at Winnipeg's MTS Centre, home of the NHL's Jets.
Sophomore forward Taylor Dickin (Winnipeg) and freshman forward Stephane Pattyn (Ste. Anne) also will be suiting up for UND in the unique contest.
"I think it's going to be a lot different," Dickin said. "Not a lot of people in Winnipeg really know a whole lot about college hockey. All they know about is the WHL (Western Hockey League), the Jets and the Manitoba Junior league. It's going to be a little bit of a shock for them to see what college hockey is like."
UND will be playing a game in Canada for the first time since Dec. 29-30, 1953, when the team lost a pair of games in Fort Frances, Ont. The last time UND played outside of the United States was Dec. 26-29, 1982, when the team competed in the Spengler Cup in Switzerland.
This will be UND's first game in Winnipeg, which has been a hot spot in recruiting over the years for the team. Jonathan Toews, Travis Zajac, Jason Gregoire, Lee Goren, James Patrick, John Marks and Bob Joyce are among UND's greats who were from Winnipeg. Recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Ed Belfour heads up the list of players from the province.
"I've wanted to go up and fiend a great venue in western Canada for a long time," said UND coach Dave Hakstol, who is from Warburg, Alta. "The trick was to find a good partner. True North (owner of MTS Centre and the Winnipeg Jets) has been a great partner. This is something we've talked about for many years, but something that seriously began to come together within the last 18 months."
Hakstol said that True North chairman Mark Chipman, a UND graduate and former football player, was an important part of organizing this game.
The original opponent was Nebraska-Omaha, but Omaha backed out. UND then looked to Clarkson, an Eastern College Athletic Conference team from Potsdam, N.Y., which has finished national runner-up three times.
The game will be a critical one for UND, which will be looking to improve its 3-1-2 nonconference mark. It is UND's last nonconference game of the regular season.
"For us, it is not a novelty," Hakstol said. "It's a business trip. We're going to Winnipeg to play our last nonconference game. It's a change of venue going to Winnipeg and having an opportunity to play in the MTS Centre is a great opportunity, but it's all part of building our season as well. You've got to go through a lot of different buildings throughout the year, certainly as you go to playoff situations. This is a good test run for that.
Ticket sales have primarily come from those in Winnipeg and Manitoba. UND will attempt to give those fans a taste of college hockey. The school band and the cheerleaders will make the trip for the game.
UND is hoping that the lower bowl will be close to full, though ticket sales have been slow.
"It's going to be a blast playing in front of my friends and family who don't get to come down on weekends and see me play," Dickin said. "It will be nice to play in front of them for a night."
O'Donnell, who attended two Winnipeg Jets games during Christmas break, said he thinks the team will be focused.
"We're there to take care of business," O'Donnell said. "We'll try to take care of our emotions and go out there and play hockey for our school."
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to email@example.com .