UND not worried about outdoor game yetOMAHA, Neb. — University of North Dakota players took a short walk to T.D. Ameritrade Park on Thursday evening and checked out the venue for Saturday’s outdoor contest.
By: Brad Schlossman , Forum News Service
OMAHA, Neb. — University of North Dakota players took a short walk to T.D. Ameritrade Park on Thursday evening and checked out the venue for Saturday’s outdoor contest.
Then, they returned to their hotel rooms and turned the page.
“We’ve got to really worry about business at hand,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We’re going to prepare for Friday night, which is indoors.”
Yes, there is a game before Saturday’s Battles on Ice at the home of the College World Series, and it’s a rather important one.
UND will open its series against Nebraska Omaha at 5:37 tonight in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game that will be nationally televised by NBC Sports Network.
The Mavericks (16-10-2 overall, 12-6-2 WCHA) are currently in second place in the WCHA, three back of leading St. Cloud State. UND (14-8-6, 9-5-6 WCHA) is tied for third, just two points behind Omaha.
“Very crucial,” Hakstol said of the weekend. “Our play and our ability to improve are absolutely critical. We are in a situation where it’s an extremely competitive and tight league race. Every weekend is a high-level series. This weekend is no different.”
UND will have a tough decision in goal this weekend.
Zane Gothberg is the league’s reigning rookie of the week after stopping 50 of 52 shots over the weekend in helping UND to a win and tie against the University of Wisconsin. The freshman netminder appears to be making his move at securing the No. 1 goalie position for the stretch run.
But junior transfer Clarke Saunders has stifled Nebraska Omaha on a couple of occasions in his career.
Saunders previously spent two seasons with Alabama-Huntsville, where the Chargers won just three of his last 39 games there. Two of them came against Omaha.
Saunders stopped 58 of 59 shots against the Mavericks as a freshman to get a win, and followed that up by stopping 44 of 45 in a game last season. Hakstol said Saunders’ previous success will not be a factor in the goaltending decision this weekend, but he did say he would like to get Saunders back in the net at some point.
“He’s played against them previously, but not within our program, so I don’t think that will play a factor,” Hakstol said. “It’s more of where we’re at and where our two goaltenders are at this weekend.”
While Saunders will be a familiar name to the Omaha fans, the Mavericks also bring plenty of familiar names to UND fans.
Two of Omaha’s top three scorers are Josh Archibald and Dominic Zombo — sons of former UND teammates and NHL players Jim Archibald and Rick Zombo. Omaha juniors Tony Turgeon and Alex Simonson are Grand Forks natives. Assistant coach Steve Johnson played at UND and head coach Dean Blais, of course, coached at UND.
At least seven buses are expected to come to Omaha from North Dakota this weekend, and UND fans will do their best to make it a home atmosphere
“I think we’ll have a lot of Sioux fans (tonight) indoors,” Hakstol said, “and I think we’ll have as many, if not more, UND fans outdoors on Saturday. Our fans travel so well. It’s an amazing thing. Every time you see it, you are reminded how passionate that fan base is and how fortunate we are to have the following that we do. I’m excited for that. Hopefully this will be an opportunity for us to go out on the road and play real well in front of our fans that have traveled a long distance.”