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Oshie, Chorney greet UND hockey coaching staff in Denver

Andrew Thome will be in goal for UND when the Fighting Hawks play Denver this weekend. He's pictured here against the Wisconsin Badgers in the Kohl Center Nov 3, 2017. RussellHonsPhotography

DENVER—When the University of North Dakota hockey team arrived at its Cherry Creek hotel on Wednesday night, Nov. 15, ahead of its showdown with No. 1 Denver, former captain Gage Ausmus was standing in the lobby.

Ausmus, who now plays for the ECHL's Colorado Eagles about an hour away, gave hugs to the team as they walked in.

"It's not a handshake," UND coach Brad Berry said. "It's a hug."

Then, the coaching staff went out to dinner with T.J. Oshie and Taylor Chorney—former UND stars who are in town with the Washington Capitals. They played against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, Nov. 16.

Oshie and Chorney recalled the pleasant memories of playing in this town, especially the 2007 NCAA West Regional, where they beat Michigan and Minnesota on back-to-back days to go to the Frozen Four. Oshie had a hat trick in the win over Michigan.

And the NHLers also wished the coaching staff the same good fortune for this weekend's series against the top-ranked Pioneers, which begins at 8:05 p.m. Friday.

"It's really nice to see them and hear how the team is doing," said Chorney, who turned pro in 2008. "It brings back a lot of memories from when you were playing there."

Oshie and Chorney have stayed close with the program throughout the years.

Last season, they rented a car and drove from Winnipeg to Grand Forks on their day off to watch a UND practice. On another occasion, Oshie gave the team a pregame speech.

"It's really, really, really special," Berry said. "That tells you how special North Dakota was to them."

Oshie and Chorney, who came in to UND as freshmen together, have now played on two NHL teams together—the St. Louis Blues and the Capitals. Six guys in that rookie class have played in the NHL.

"You stick together," Chorney said. "You always have that common bond. We have a group chat going 10 years later. We're still keeping in touch all the time with each other."

Chorney said he was pleased to hear this year's team is developing an identity of being hard working and tough to play against—something his teams tried to cultivate.

And while the Capitals will be back in Washington, D.C., by the time the UND-Denver series begins, Oshie and Chorney said they hope to hear good results.

"It's great to connect with those guys," UND associate coach Dane Jackson said. "Those guys are great players in our past and they are still so humble and so involved and interested in what's going on with our group. It's nice having them be part of our program."

Thome to start again

UND starting goalie Cam Johnson, who returned to practice this week, will be out for the series against Denver.

Johnson sustained a lower-body injury on Nov. 3 in Madison prior to a series against Wisconsin.

Thome has started the last four games, going 2-0-2 with a .929 save percentage and a 1.92 goals-against average.

UND also will play its fifth- and sixth-straight games without senior forward Trevor Olson, but sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff is expected to return to the lineup.

Denver, meanwhile, will be without defensemen Adam Plant and Tariq Hammond, according to the Denver Post.

No. 3 UND at No. 1 Denver

• When: 8:05 p.m. Friday, 8:05 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Magness Arena, Denver.

• TV: Altitude 2 (DirecTV 681-1).

• Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

• Webcast:

• Of note: UND will be without goalie Cam Johnson this weekend (lower body). Peter Thome will get his fifth-straight start tonight.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 14th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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