UND beginning fall skates in a rare spot -- at full strength


GRAND FORKS — There are a couple of new twists to UND's fall camp this season.

Both of them are welcome to Fighting Hawks coach Brad Berry.

The first one is that UND is actually at full strength.

When the Fighting Hawks hit the ice in Ralph Engelstad Arena this week, every player on the roster was on the ice.

That includes East Grand Forks Senior High graduate Dixon Bowen, a junior forward who had offseason surgery.

In recent years, that hasn't been the case.

Berry started his first season as head coach in 2015-16 without goalie Matej Tomek and forward Colten St. Clair. He started last season without Gabe Bast, who had offseason shoulder surgery.

"We kind of changed up a few different things as far as what we're doing with the training and working-out side," Berry said. "Hopefully, that has helped out. Rest is a big thing. We have to give our players two days off a week and we're taking full advantage of that, too. I think guys know it's time to replenish the batteries."

The full lineup of players has allowed UND to experiment with all sorts of different line combinations and defensive pairings.

"We're still in the information process with our team, especially our young guys, the new guys coming into our program here, to see what they're capable of early in the season," Berry said. "Part of that is individual play. Part of it also is their synergy with teammates on the ice, what brings chemistry and what could be future line combinations or future D-pairings.

"It's the information gathering time now. We can collect that."

The other welcome development is an NCAA rules change that allows UND to spend four hours per week on the ice together — with coaches — before its Oct. 6 exhibition game against the University of Manitoba.

In recent years, NCAA rules allowed two hours per week before the exhibition game. When Berry started as an assistant coach at UND in 2000, the coaches couldn't have any time on the ice with their full team before that opening exhibition.

"It's one of those things where you monitor closely how you allocate (the hours)," Berry said. "Before, you'd have to wait until pretty close to the first game — the morning skate of the day of the game — to get things jammed in. Here, you can kind of peck away at what you need to do to get prepared for that first game."