UND’s Idalski focused on strong finish
ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- When things weren't going well for the University of North Dakota women's hockey team, head coach Brian Idalski quit looking at the Pairwise Rankings.
ST. CLOUD, Minn. - When things weren’t going well for the University of North Dakota women’s hockey team, head coach Brian Idalski quit looking at the Pairwise Rankings.
He knew that his team probably didn’t have any hope at working its way into getting an at-large bid.
But after last weekend’s upset of No. 2 Minnesota and UND’s recent 12-4-1 run in a 17-game span, the NCAA tournament picture has started to change a little bit for North Dakota.
“Peter (Elander) and Erik (Fabian) have tried to talk me into taking a look at it,” Idalski said of the Pairwise Rankings. “I have. That’s not our focus. We have to win hockey games. You know that. I know that. We need to take care of business. That’s the next couple of weekends in the regular season, the first round of the playoffs, and more than likely, a couple games in the tournament. There’s a long ways to go.”
UND has shot up to No. 9 in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimic the formula used to select the eight-team NCAA tournament. Because no College Hockey America team is near the top in the Pairwise, UND will need to work its way to, at a minimum, No. 7 to have a shot at the NCAA tournament.
To have any chance of doing that, it will need to sweep its final two series of the regular season, beginning at 6:07 tonight at St. Cloud State. The series finale is at 2:07 p.m. Saturday. UND hosts MSU-Mankato next weekend.
The Huskies and Mavericks sit at the bottom of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with records of 6-23-1 and 3-25-1, respectively.
Although tonight’s game won’t have the same hype as last weekend’s series against Minnesota - nor will it have nearly 5,000 fans in the stands like last week - Idalski doesn’t anticipate a letdown from his team.
“This group understands some of the things that happened to us last year,” he said. “There are some similarities in where we’re at. We have to take care of business. We’ve done some good work to dig ourselves out of a bit of a hole. I don’t think we’re about to let that slip away from us after everything it took to get back to where we’re at.”
UND (16-11-3, 12-9-3 WCHA) has control of its destiny to finish in the top four in the WCHA and earn home ice for a first-round playoff series.
It will likely have control of its own destiny to third place as UND sits one point back of Minnesota Duluth. The Bulldogs have to play Minnesota this weekend.
As for the national picture, UND still has plenty of work to do to have a shot at making the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years.
“I think the games coming up are going to be fun,” said UND junior Becca Kohler, the team’s leading scorer. “We’re approaching every game like it’s a playoff game.
“We learned a lot from the past weekend. We learned that we are capable of being a good team and beating the best teams out there. We’re going to take that and keep going.”