RedHawk rivalry continues to build

Last February, North Dakota scored nine goals on its home ice against a Miami RedHawks team that would redeem itself months later in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinal, defeating North Dakota 3-0.

This weekend, the rivals will meet again at Ralph Engelstad Arena in their second year as conference foes.

UND enters the weekend unbeaten in its last eight games and spent the past five games competing in nonconference matchups.

While Miami has won four of its past five games and garnered a No. 7 ranking in national polls, UND’s preparation against the RedHawks remains unchanged.

“I just think we’ve got to stick to our game,” UND forward Colten St. Clair said. “That’s what we do best, and that’s what makes us succeed is when we’re playing our game and know our systems. Obviously we know they have a great offense. So I think we’ve got to put that aside and really prepare ourselves.”

North Dakota holds an edge in the series, going 5-2-1 against Miami and 2-0-1 on home ice.

Miami forwards Blake Coleman, Sean Kuraly and Riley Barber currently lead NCHC scorers with 11 points each. Miami goaltender Jay Williams has started seven of the team’s 10 games and boasts a .921 save percentage and 1.64 goals against average.

While North Dakota has depth within its lineup, it still remains without Mark MacMillan and Nick Schmaltz, who is out with an undisclosed injury.

That doesn’t stop UND’s drive toward improvement while working with what it has.

“I think there’s a lot of things we need to get better at,” Hakstol said. “It’s small steps week in and week out. The one constant we want to bring to the table is competitiveness through 60 minutes — a group going out with everybody contributing in our lineup. Those have to be constants.”

That competitiveness will be displayed against a Miami team hungry to post a different outcome from its last at Ralph Engelstad Arena, which included 3-2 and 9-2 losses.

“We’ve had some great games with them,” Hakstol said. “In terms of building new traditions and new rivalries — no question there’s a  ton of respect between the two programs. We have met in the playoffs, so now we’re going into year 2 of what may become a great rivalry.”

This weekend will mark UND’s conference home opener, which only boosts its incentive to claim a victory.

“There’s obviously a lot of good teams in our conference, but Miami really stands out to us,” St. Clair said. “I think we’ve began to form a little bit of a rivalry, so it’s always going to be a fun weekend and you never want a team to come into your building and push you around, so I think that’s a big aspect there.”

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