Final stretch in sight

Not a few games, not a few months — just a few periods of hockey is what’s been lacking from the UND men’s team in recent weeks, according to coach Dave Hakstol.

That’s it.

While the success earned the team a second place finish in its regular season conference and a place within national rankings, relying on it too much can cause the team to skate away from its pure consistency.

“I like what we’ve done over the last couple of months,” Hakstol said. “In saying that, that’s the one biggest thing we have to move forward from is not resting on some of the good things we’re done over the last few months. We’ve got to make sure our focus is really on playing our best hockey.”

After splitting a series against Western Michigan last weekend at home, North Dakota’s Penrose Cup hopes slipped away, but the matchup against Colorado College this weekend is the only way to secure a spot in the Frozon Faceoff in Minneapolis next weekend.

The Tigers fell to Nebraska Omaha and St. Cloud State in back-to-back sweeps, but their No. 7 spot in the conference doesn’t indicate their tenacity.

“I think there are four really tough series coming up in the NCHC playoffs, and I know we have one in front of us,” Hakstol said.

In early January, North Dakota captured the sweep over Colorado College when the Tigers traveled to Grand Forks.

This weekend, having a fan base to again support the team largely becomes an advantage for the team.

“I think it’s huge,” UND senior Derek Rodwell said. “Especially not having to travel keeps your body from wearing down, and getting to play at home in front of our fans that we really feed off of really helps us.”

Leading by example

While Rodwell will be playing at the Ralph for the last time this weekend as his senior year comes to a close, rushing down the ice in front of thousands of fans wasn’t always how he spent his weekends.

Earlier this season, Rodwell’s name wasn’t a consistent sight on the line chart, but his presence became one coaches couldn’t turn aside.

“It’s always hard to be out of the lineup, but he handled it as a teammate really well,” Hakstol said. “He controlled all the things he could control. He showed up, worked extremely hard every day and probably most importantly, he made sure he was ready when he did get an opportunity. Once he was in, we couldn’t take him out.”

In 32 games he’s played this season, Rodwell has collected two goals and an assist. But what he adds to the team speaks louder than his statistics.

“(He brings) intensity, extra effort, a real pure element I think that was missing from our roster,” Hakstol said. “He brought it right away and he’s been a guy that’s been extremely consistent in what he brings to the table. He brought that day one and I think he’s brought it every day since.

“He leads by example and by going out and doing it.”

This weekend, the senior knows what’s on the line.

He’s played for four years, and the upcoming series marks the end of a cycle at the Ralph.

“Getting to play four years in this building and knowing this is going to be the last weekend, it’s definitely going to be a little bit extra on the table and we want to make it a memorable one.”

Creating memories has been a common theme in recent weeks with the emotions of senior night, and moving closer to the ultimate goal one day at a time.

Despite the importance each game plays in determining post-season rankings, the preparation remains the same.

“At the end of the day, you just have to treat every game the same,” Rodwell said. “Go in the same whether its senior night or its the first game of the season. I think that’s kind of what’s allowed us to be successful this year is treating the games the same and taking the same approach and mentality toward it.”

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