The Gophers men's hockey team will play a series at North Dakota this weekend for the first time since October 2017.
While a trip to Grand Forks is nothing new for coach Bob Motzko, it is something new for almost everyone on the Gophers roster.
Only one current Gopher has played the Fighting Hawks at Ralph Engelstad Arena — senior Grant Cruikshank. Now in his first season with the Gophers, Cruikshank made the North Dakota trip when he was with Colorado College.
"I like going up there," said Motzko, whose teams played 13 series in Grand Forks during his 13 seasons as coach of St. Cloud State. "It's a fun atmosphere. We've gotten a little feel of that this season with games in Duluth and St. Cloud."
Freshman Matthew Knies, who is tied for the team lead with senior Sammy Walker with seven goals, said: "It's a historic rivalry. I think all of the guys are looking forward to it."
The teams played twice in Minneapolis during the 2019-20 season, with the Fighting Hawks winning both games. During the 2018-19 season the teams played in Las Vegas, with UND winning 3-1. The teams split the series in Grand Forks in October 2017.
Both the No. 11 Gophers and No. 6 Fighting Hawks are coming off series splits last weekend. The Gophers (8-6) lost to Penn State 5-3 on Friday and won 4-2 on Saturday. The Gophers are 0-3 on Fridays and 3-0 on Saturdays this month.
The Fighting Hawks (9-4) split with Minnesota Duluth at home — losing 4-1 and winning 2-1. North Dakota was 22-6-1 last season and fell one game short of the Frozen Four, just like Minnesota. This season, UND is 5-2 at home; the other home loss was 4-3 in overtime to Bemidji State on Oct. 16.
"[North Dakota] has a real different style than Penn State," Motzko said. "They forecheck and jam their defense down. Our wings will have to play strong. They're content to grind it out. You have to match their intensity."
The Fighting Hawks are led by Jake Sanderson, who has 15 points — six goals, nine assists — in 11 games. Goalie Zach Driscoll, in his first season at North Dakota after transferring from Bemidji State, has started all 13 games and has a 2.33 goals-against average
This will be the 299th and 300th meetings between the teams in the series, which began in 1930.