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UND MEN’S HOCKEY: Top-five showdown awaits UND

Two years ago, UND flooded Omaha with its legion of fans that showed up to watch the novelty of an outdoor game. T.D. Ameritrade Park was mostly filled with green and white, taking any sort of home-ice advantage away from Nebraska Omaha. The Mave...

UND sports logo

Two years ago, UND flooded Omaha with its legion of fans that showed up to watch the novelty of an outdoor game.

T.D. Ameritrade Park was mostly filled with green and white, taking any sort of home-ice advantage away from Nebraska Omaha.

The Mavericks got swept in that series and they are doing everything they can to make sure there won’t be a repeat this weekend as No. 1 UND visits No. 5 Omaha in a battle between the top two teams in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The school is attempting a black out campaign, asking fans to wear black to the games. Fans are calling it, “Black out the green,” in reference to the large UND contingent that shows up for road games.

Omaha head coach Dean Blais mentioned the campaign on ESPN Radio on Thursday and tried to drum up support for one of the program’s biggest regular-season home series ever.

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“Hopefully, we give them something to cheer about,” Blais said.

The Mavericks enter the weekend in first place with a 9-4-1 league record and 29 points. UND has an identical record and is one point back. The difference? Omaha topped UND in a shootout in Grand Forks for the extra point.

Omaha has never won a conference regular season or postseason title. Blais, who spent 19 years at UND as a head coach an assistant coach, says he wants this year to be the first.

“You create bonds through winning,” he said in a radio interview. “In my 19 years at North Dakota, we won four national titles and nine WCHA titles. It seems like every three or four years, we are having reunions for championship teams. I would really like this group of players to have that experience of bonding.”

UND (18-5-2) also is chasing the Penrose Cup and may get some help this weekend. Defenseman Troy Stecher practiced for the second straight week after sitting out the last eight games with a leg injury.

That could help UND’s attempt to slow down a Maverick offense that ranks first in offense in league games (3.29 goals per game).

“Just look at the standings and you can tell what kind of team they are,” UND defenseman Andrew Panzarella said. “This weekend is going to be a battle. I was just looking at a picture of Blaiser winning a national championship here, so you know he gets fired up for these big games. He does a great job getting his team prepared, so it’s going to be a big weekend.

“It’s a battle for first place in our league, so it’s a big thing for us. I’m sure it’s a big thing for them as well. They are going to be hard-fought games.”

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UND came away with a win and a tie in the Thanksgiving weekend series between the teams, who will continue to meet twice a year under the NCHC’s schedule block.

“They are a really good team,” UND senior Michael Parks said. “They play hard. They play fast. It’s a series that you can expect to take a lot of energy out of you.”

 

UND picks up recruit

UND landed a forward recruit from Michigan late Wednesday night.

Collin Adams, a 1998-born winger playing for the Honeybaked program in Michigan, posted on Twitter that he gave his verbal commitment to play college hockey at UND.

Adams, a draft pick of the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the United States Hockey League, has filled in and played some games with the U.S. Under-17 team this season and figures to come to campus in 2017 or 2018.

“For me, choosing North Dakota is a dream come true,” Adams said. “It is one of those dream schools you want to play for growing up as a kid and watching their games on television. When I took my official visit, it ended up being a perfect fit for me. The coaching staff is one of the best in the country and they can help me get to the next level.”

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Adams leads Honeybaked with 25 goals and 34 points in 22 games this season.

 

Briefly

 

  •  Both games this weekend are televised. CBS Sports is broadcasting Friday’s game. Ben Holden, Dave Starman and Shireen Saski are on the call. Saturday’s game will be on Fox College Sports Central nationally and on Midco Sports Network locally.
  •  Blais told ESPN Radio: “They have a big advantage with their defensive corps. Hopefully, our forwards can put pressure on them and outskate them and pressure their D. If that happens, then we’ve got a chance. If we get into exchanging opportunities with them, then we’re in trouble.”
  •  Omaha will be without steady defenseman Brian O’Rourke (no goals, three assists) Friday. He’s serving a suspension for an illegal check earlier this month against Colorado College.
  •  UND has a week off after taking on Nebraska Omaha.

  Click here to see today's ICE TIME with Colten St. Clair

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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