Friars return for non-conference series

North Dakota prepares to face Providence College on home ice for first time since 1989


UND senior Michael Parks skates at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Photo by Nicholas Nelson/The Dakota Student.

Three years ago, North Dakota watched as then No. 5 Boston College scored six goals at Ralph Engelstad Arena — enough to secure a victory over a third-ranked team that faces much the same situation in this weekend’s matchup.

But this time, a new opponent.

No. 5 Providence will travel to Grand Forks this weekend to battle the No. 3 ranked UND men’s hockey team, and Ralph Engelstad Arena will play host to two top-5 teams for the first time since 2011.

For a team that claimed an October sweep last weekend for the first time since 2010, the challenge is well-accepted.

“These are the types of series you want to play in early in the year,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “They push you in a lot of areas, and it’s always fun to compete in series like this where there’s a lot at stake and there’s some national exposure that comes with it.”

The national stage is familiar for a North Dakota team that rolled to the Frozen Four tournament last season, but fell short before it could skate in a national championship game.

The Friars also made the national tournament — just one game away from making the Frozen Four.

Both teams squared off in Grand Forks on Jan. 20, 1989, Providence falling 3-2 to give UND the 8-5 edge in the series.

While Providence was picked to win the Hockey East Association, it will face a hungry team that scored 10 goals its most recent series sweep on the road at Colorado College.

Senior forward Mark MacMillan tallied seven points and his first career hat trick that garnered him NCHC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

“I think we’re continuing to make progress,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “You’ve got to go on the road and play hard in order to get two wins, and we did that. Both nights were a little bit different in some of the things we had to take care of. But the bottom line is we took care of business. We found a way to get two wins.”

Providence has returned a handful of its top scorers, and Hakstol knows the importance of facing a team that boasts the potential of one of the top teams in the nation.

“It’s a cliche of one game at a time,” Hakstol said. “But we know the emphasis we have to put on our non-conference schedule.”

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