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UND aims to end skid in its venue of dominance

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--The University of North Dakota men's hockey team will not be getting on a bus today. There is no road trip scheduled. And a weekend at home might be exactly what the Fighting Hawks need. After going 0-3-1 on its trips to Duluth...

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UND's and Northern Colorado during Friday's NCHC Quarterfinal game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald3rd periodThe Crowd at Saturday's NCHC Quarterfinal game between UND and Northern Colorado at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald3rd period

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-The University of North Dakota men's hockey team will not be getting on a bus today.

There is no road trip scheduled.

And a weekend at home might be exactly what the Fighting Hawks need.

After going 0-3-1 on its trips to Duluth and Minneapolis, No. 6 UND returns to Ralph Engelstad Arena for a two-game showdown against No. 2 Denver at 7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Saturday.

Maybe, the Fighting Hawks can get back on track with some home-cooking.

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UND is 5-0 in Ralph Engelstad Arena this season.

It is 20-1-1 in its last 22 home games.

And it is 31-2-2 in its last 35 home games dating back to Jan. 10, 2015.

One of those two losses came in overtime to Omaha. The other was against Wisconsin.

"I think it's the environment we're in," UND coach Brad Berry said. "The culture we have tends to have success with a crowd and the fan base that supports us each and every night. That's the first thing.

"The second thing is that it's a special place to play. The Ralph, ever since it was built, is a home-ice advantage. I think our guys realize that."

Since Jan. 10, 2015, UND's 31 home wins ranks first by a wide margin. Nobody else in the country has more than 25. During that time, UND has outscored its opponents 148-60 (an average of 4.2-1.7 per game).

This season, UND earned two-game sweeps of Bemidji State and Canisius and a U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game victory over RPI at home before setting out on the four-game road trip to Duluth and Minnesota.

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UND did not win a game during the road trip, getting swept at Duluth for the first time since 1992 and tying and losing at Mariucci Arena last weekend.

It is UND's first four-game winless streak since November 2013. UND hasn't had a five-game winless streak since Jan.-Feb. 2013 (0-2-3).

But the defending national champion Fighting Hawks say they are still confident-not only because they are back at home this weekend.

They racked up an 80-38 difference in shot attempts during Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Gophers.

"I think our confidence is still good, despite going 0-3-1 on the road," UND forward Brock Boeser said. "Both Saturday games were two of our strongest games all year. Look at all the categories that we beat the other teams. We just didn't beat them in the goal category.

"After losing those games, I just think there's a different feeling in the locker room right now. I think everyone's really excited for Friday night."

One area that UND has been nailing down in practice this week is special teams.

UND has allowed nine power-play goals in the last five games.

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Its power play has scored the same number of power-play goals as it has allowed shorthanded goals (three) during that same timeframe.

"I think just getting off to a slow start for a penalty kill and a power play," Boeser said. "We're just trying to regroup here and throw away everything that's happened for us. I think we just want to press the restart button here and start from scratch. Our power play was a lot better last weekend. It's taking steps. I think our penalty kill, from Friday night to Saturday night, we were smart, didn't take as many penalties.

"I think it's moving in the right direction."

Poolman back

UND will get one big piece to its team back Friday night.

Defenseman Tucker Poolman, who has been playing nearly 30 minutes per game, is practicing and expected to play against the Pioneers this weekend.

Poolman missed Saturday night's game against Minnesota with an arm injury that he sustained while blocking a shot a night earlier. Poolman skated in warmups, but couldn't go.

No. 2 Denver at No. 6 UND

When: 7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Records: UND 5-3-1 (0-2 NCHC); Denver 6-2 (2-0).

TV/radio: Midco SN (GF Ch. 27/622 HD); The Fox (96.1 FM).

Of note: UND is 31-2-2 in its last 35 home games.

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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