As the Covid-19 epidemic tightens its grip on North Dakota the need for a distraction and a sense of hope is needed more than ever. Nothing gives us these feelings more than sports and in a time when we need them the most, many are set to make their return. Here is an update on UND sports for the upcoming season.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) announced the full schedule for the upcoming season which will feature a shortened 26 game year within conference appearances only. Like many other professional sports leagues the season will begin in a bubble, or as the NCHC is dubbing it, the “pod”. Each team in the conference will play a set of 10 games in the span of three weeks at the Baxter Arena in Omaha, NE. After these 10 games in Omaha, UND and the rest of the conference will return to home games and a normal travel schedule for the rest of the season. Followed by the standard NCHC and NCAA college hockey playoffs. The puck will drop on the first game in the pod on Tuesday, Dec. 1. For this season, teams have been split into two divisions, east and west, for scheduling purposes. Divisional opponents to be played six times and cross-divisional games twice.
North Dakota enters this season with expectations sky high after winning its third Penrose cup in the last seven years. Before the shutdown, last season UND carried a record of 26-5-4 into the NCHC conference tournament and were poised to make a long NCAA tournament run in their quest for the school’s ninth national title. The presumed favorites this season have been placed atop both national ranking polls, USCHO, and US Today/USA Hockey Magazine.
UND’s long list of returning players are headlined by Hobey Baker finalist Jordan Kawaguchi, whose 45-point season put him second in the country. Kawaguchi is joined by a very talented North Dakota roster that only gained strength this summer with the addition of rookies Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven. These two US Under 18 prospects add to a total of 12 draft picks on the squad.
UND has been placed in the West division along with Colorado College, Denver, and Omaha. Their season will begin Dec. 2 against Miami in the pod.
Both UND men’s and women’s basketball will return to the court for conference play beginning on Saturday, Jan. 2. The Summit League has finalized a 16-game schedule that will span the months of January and February. Teams will play the same opponent twice in one city to reduce travel, with each team playing eight games at home and eight games away. The men’s and women’s schedule for conference play is identical.
The UND Men’s basketball team has been invited to play in the CU Mortgage Direct Dakota Showcase, which is a three-day, round-robin tournament featuring the four division one men’s basketball programs in the Dakotas. The Tournament will be held Dec. 10-12 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with limited tickets available to the public.
The UND men have been ranked 6th in the preseason conference poll with Filip Rebraca being named in the All-Summit League Preseason first team. The Serbian native lead the team and league last year with 13 double-doubles and broke the UND division one era record. The Women, ranked eighth in the poll, will be led by All-Summit League Preseason second-teamer and captain, Julia Fleecs. Fleecs led the team with 12.2 ppg last year and posted five 20-point games.
UND Football may have the most interesting return to action as the Missouri Valley Football Conference announced it will play a spring season in alignment with the NCAA announcement of a springtime FCS playoff to begin on April 18. Each member of the MVFC will play an 8-game schedule, four home and away, but will not include more than two straight home or away games. The season will follow a “Southern Start” with early-season games played at stadiums in the southernmost part of the league’s area.
UND will open their season against Missouri State on Saturday, Feb. 20, and close it out on Saturday, April 17, at a school 70 miles to the south. Six Hawks made the All MVFC Preseason teams led by first-teamer Jaxson Turner. Turner stands as a monstrous figure on the defensive side of the ball, coming in sixth in total tackles and second in sacks last year even after missing games due to injury.
Volleyball and Soccer:
Both women’s soccer and volley will return to play with the same format set by the Summit League. This will include a 16-match regular season in a double round-robin format with each team receiving a bye week. Teams will play the same opponent twice on consecutive days leading up to a four-team championship tournament to close out the season. Both sports will still be playing for a berth in their respective NCAA tournaments at the end of the season. Soccer will open their season on Feb. 12, and Volleyball on Jan. 31.
James DeArman is a Dakota Student Sports Writer. He can be reached at [email protected]