UND MEN'S HOCKEY: First road test awaits Sioux
MADISON, Wis. -- First, there were injuries and NCAA eligibility problems. Then, there were powerhouse programs on the other side of the ice. The next challenge for the youthful UND men's hockey team to face this season? It's going on the road fo...
MADISON, Wis. -- First, there were injuries and NCAA eligibility problems.
Then, there were powerhouse programs on the other side of the ice.
The next challenge for the youthful UND men's hockey team to face this season? It's going on the road for the first time into one of the league's most hostile environments.
The Sioux will take on the University of Wisconsin at 7:07 tonight in the Kohl Center, a building in downtown Madison that holds more than 15,000 red-clad, noisy, chanting fans.
"It's nice to get on the road as a team," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "We're going to one of the most challenging places in our league and in the country. It's an exciting atmosphere, a great atmosphere. And with Wisconsin coming off of two losses up in Houghton, we're probably walking into a hornet's nest on all fronts. It's a good challenge for our team. It's a great challenge for our first road trip of the year.
"We look forward to going on the road and having an us-against-the-world mentality."
UND had success in Madison last season, sweeping the Badgers while wearing the black jerseys both nights. It was UND's second sweep in the building since it opened in 1998.
Much of that team has moved to the pros, though, and a new group will take on the challenge this weekend. The Sioux have been playing six rookies per night on average.
"I've heard all about Wisconsin and how it's a crazy place," UND freshman defenseman Nick Mattson said. "I can't wait to play."
Like the Sioux, the Badgers are a young squad. They only have one senior and four juniors (not including third-string goalie Mitch Thompson).
They didn't have an easy time on their first road trip of the season, getting swept by Michigan Tech in Houghton. Both games ended with overtime goals.
"They were very disappointed," Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. "North Dakota's going to be fun to get up for. You don't have to worry about the emotional (level)."
The Sioux have been successful on the road recently, going 14-2-1 in the last 17 league road games. But many of the players in the lineup tonight have not played a WCHA road game before.
"It's probably a matter of our team really looking inside our own locker room and improving ourselves in small increments," Hakstol said. "That's what we're going to try to do this week. We've got to do it in a hostile environment against a good team. But we're going to go in with a great mentality and everybody is going to chip in and do their part.
"We're going to play a good team. We're going to play 60 or 65 minutes and we've got to find a way to come out on top on the road."
Blais wants UND,
UNO outdoor game
Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais says there are talks about an outdoor game between Omaha and UND next season at Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park.
"Omaha is a big-event city," Blais told The Zone 1620 radio station in Omaha. "This would be a big event, playing North Dakota outside."
The game would likely coincide with UND's trip to Omaha for league games, which Blais estimated for the Feb. 8-9, 2013, weekend.
Blais told the radio station that it would likely be called "Hockey Week in Omaha," and the event would include a United States Hockey League game between the Omaha Lancers and the Lincoln Stars.
"They would put an artificial surface down," he said. "It costs about $150,000. It used to cost $500,000. Certainly, they've experimented enough on how to do it. It would be an exciting time."
This isn't the first time the schools tried to hook up for a showcase game. Omaha was originally supposed to be UND's opponent for the Jan. 7 game in Winnipeg, but the Mavericks ended up backing out.
Clarkson is the new opponent.
Winnipeg game tix
on sale Saturday
Tickets for the U.S. College Hockey Classic -- a single game between UND and Clarkson in Winnipeg on Jan. 7 -- will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Costs for the tickets will be $20, $27.25 or $35.
The tickets can be purchased on ticketmaster.com, Ralph Engelstad Arena box office or by phone at (800) 745-3000.
The game is being held at the MTS Centre -- the home of the Winnipeg Jets.
Last season, UND forward Corban Knight set a single-season program record (they go back about a decade) for best faceoff percentage by winning 59.9 percent of his draws.
Early this season, he's blowing those numbers away. Knight has won 71.9 percent of faceoffs through the first two weeks of the season. Against Maine, Knight won 21 of 26 faceoffs (80.8 percent) and was at 77.1 percent for the weekend.
One clean faceoff win led directly to the game-winning goal on Friday night.
"It's a key part of the game. You're either chasing the puck off of the faceoff, trying to get it back, or you have it and you can get yourself into attack mode," Hakstol said. "So it's a key part of the game and an area of the game he really grew last year. He was pretty efficient through the second half of the year last year, so it's not a shock or a surprise to us that he's doing good things in the faceoff circle.
"It was critical to our weekend last week. We won draws five-on-five against a very dominant top line for Maine. That means we were starting with the puck, not their best offensive players. So it was critical."
UND also has used Knight late in games to win draws to seal victories.
"You try to maximize the strengths of your team," Hakstol said. "Corban took more than his regular shift faceoffs a few times throughout a game. To start a penalty kill, a few times, he took faceoffs and then went off. He was a pretty effective weapon.
"We have other guys who can do the job there, but right now, he's hot in the faceoff circle."
Wisconsin expects to play both freshman goalies -- Landon Peterson and Joel Rumpel. They have split starts in each of the Badgers' first two weekends and Wisconsin is happy with their play. . . UND hasn't committed to who will start in goal, but both Brad Eidsness and Aaron Dell played well against Maine last weekend. . . UND is expected to be without injured forwards Rocco Grimaldi (leg) and Brendan O'Donnell (leg). . . Inside College Hockey ranked UND's freshman class as No. 2 in the nation behind Miami's. . . UND junior Danny Kristo has tallied 30 points in his last 21 games going back to last season.
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to email@example.com .