UND WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Home playoffs on the road
After nine years as a Division I women's hockey program, UND will finally host a playoff game -- on the road, so to speak. Friday night's Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-round contest against Bemidji State will be held at Purpur Arena...
After nine years as a Division I women's hockey program, UND will finally host a playoff game -- on the road, so to speak.
Friday night's Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-round contest against Bemidji State will be held at Purpur Arena in Grand Forks instead of UND's regular home of Ralph Engelstad Arena, which has been taken over by the North Dakota state boys and girls high school tournaments.
The Sioux (18-11-3 overall, 16-10-2 WCHA) practiced all week at Purpur Arena to get used to their temporary home.
"It doesn't really feel like home ice," junior forward Margot Miller said. "But hopefully a lot of people come out and make it a great atmosphere."
Junior goalie Stephanie Ney added: "It's different, but it will be fine. It's like traveling. Basically, you have to get used to the rink as quickly as possible, but we're adjusting."
The Sioux had the option of playing in the Olympic rink at Ralph Engelstad Arena, but preferred to play at Purpur, which can hold larger crowds.
"We've done some drills so you get a feel if you have to make a board pass," UND coach Brian Idalski said. "In comparison to some of the places we've played on the road, it's solid. There's nothing where you have a trick door or glass with a funny bounce. It's a solid rink. It's well maintained. The ice has been really good. It's been fast.
"So we've been happy with that and we're looking forward to playing a couple of solid games there this weekend."
The winner of the best-of-three series (7:37 Friday, 7:37 p.m. Saturday, 7:07 p.m. Sunday, if necessary) will advance to the WCHA Final Faceoff next week in Minneapolis. UND has never advanced there -- the Sioux have never even won a single playoff game -- but that's the next goal on the checklist.
"This is a first step for us in achieving bigger things down the road," Idalski said, "like playing in the WCHA playoff finals and trying to get a bid into the nationals. I don't think you can accomplish those without getting home ice first. It's the first step, but there are a lot of other things out there."
UND has played Bemidji State four times this season.
The Sioux lost 2-1 and tied 1-1 in Bemidji without the star Lamoureux twins. The teams met again in mid-January in Ralph Engelstad Arena -- with the Lamoureux twins -- and the Sioux swept the Beavers 5-2 and 6-2.
"I thought we did a nice job attacking in transition," Idalski said of the second series. "They block so many shots and do so well in their own end. Obviously, having the twins the second time was big. They're impact players and you saw them impact the games quite a bit the second time around."
This meeting will not be at The Ralph, but the players are still happy to be in town.
"We're excited about it," Ney said. "It's been one of our goals for a long time. We're happy to finally reach that goal."
Miller added: "It's definitely an honor to finally reach home-ice advantage. We worked how many years for it? We're pretty excited and pumped about it. Can't wait."
Note: UND is expected to play without injured defenseman Jordan Slavin this weekend. Slavin also missed last weekend's series against the University of Minnesota.
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to email@example.com .