Team hosts exhibition

North Dakota hockey team prepares for Saturday game against U.S. Under-18 team.

After UND captured a 4-2 victory over then No. 1 ranked Miami last Friday, it found itself in a 5-0 deficit Saturday — its two goals in response not enough to pull through for a win. Instead, the 6-2 loss displayed on the scoreboard was the result.

While the Green and White aren’t looking for a repeat of last weekend, guaranteeing it won’t happen again isn’t something the team can do.

“There’s no way to ensure it,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We’re still putting together the real strong foundation of basic hockey, day in and day out. Those are things that you build through repetition over time — even though you don’t have a lot of time to instill them. Those are things that we continue to work on day in and day out to make sure we have a good baseline game. It gives us the opportunity to win on a nightly basis.”

Despite a Miami goal minutes into last Saturday’s game, North Dakota began the game with the momentum from Friday.

“I thought we played our best 20 minutes of hockey on Saturday night in the first period,” Hakstol said. “That just speaks how important it is to play a complete hockey game. We gave the game away in about a two-minute span. When you make mistakes at this level against good teams, it takes you out of games.”

Saturday, North Dakota will take a break from conference play as it will host the U.S. Under-18 team in an exhibition game at 7:07 p.m. in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

UND has faced the Under-18 team four times under Hakstol — posting a 6-4 victory over the team last October. Sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi, a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, tallied two goals during that game, while sophomore defenseman Jordan Schmaltz posted three assists.

Grimaldi is focused on developing a strong team mentality and work ethic after falling short of his own expectations this past weekend.

“The biggest thing is that the mentality we have,” Grimaldi said. “I wasn’t thrilled with the weekend I had. I just think a lot of the guys on our team need to work harder, starting with myself. Giving it your all in practice is going to rub off in games. We just have to work a little harder in practice.”

While it is still early in the season, the team has an exhibition game, non-conference series and National Collegiate Hockey Conference series to learn from.

Hasktol said he has been impressed with the team.

“I like that I see so far — I like what I see as far as work ethic for our team,” Hakstol said. “We’ve got great practices; we’ve got high energy. Throughout the first month of our season here, we just want to keep that going and see that continue to grow.”

This weekend’s exhibition game will give North Dakota the chance to continue to see what works and what doesn’t. The team is focused more on evaluating itself rather than its opponent.

“Try to approach it as a work day,” Hakstol said. “Our exhibition game three weeks ago against Manitoba was about evaluation … (This weekend) we would like to try one or two new things as far as combinations, but for the most part, just a continuation of our work week — trying to build the foundation of our game and build that baseline game.

“Its much more of the performance and how solid of a 60 minute performance we can put together at this point in time than it was three weeks ago against Manitoba.”

With new freshmen on the team and lines still being shuffled for the right fit, the chemistry on the team is continuing to build one day at a time.

“I think that’ll continue to grow throughout the year — I hope it does,” Hakstol said. “I see a lot of exceptions, guys wanting to do everything they can to help us win. I think we saw a lot of that this past weekend on the road against Miami. Those are things that have to grow and become more solid. That’s part of the baseline game.”

North Dakota’s strengths were put to the test and its weaknesses were revealed — but what it does in response is what it is aimed at fixing.

Just a month into the new season, the Green and White are learning what they need to do better.

“It’s still early, but I think there’s a lot of chemistry between guys,” Grimaldi said. “The power play is a lot better. We were kind of struggling this weekend when Miami put a lot of pressure on us … there are definitely things we need to work on, but it’s early on so we’re not too upset about it right now.”

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].