Huskies travel to town for UND Senior Night

North Dakota men’s hockey team aims to clinch home ice, Penrose Cup in final regular season home series

 The seven seniors on this year’s roster have made three trips to the NCAA tournament. They’ve been through the ups and downs of each season, and one final journey to the national stage is close in sight.

As the UND men’s hockey team continues on the road to Boston, its first goal is to hoist the Penrose Cup.

In its final regular season home series and senior night on Saturday, it will have that chance.

By claiming at least three points this weekend when it hosts St. Cloud State, UND can clinch home ice for the NCHC Quarterfinals on March 13-16.

In multiple scenarios, if it claims five points, UND can win a portion or full possession of the Penrose Cup.

“Home ice is huge,” UND junior forward Drake Caggiula said. “You’ve got your fans behind you, and you don’t have to travel. It’s always fun playing at home. It’s definitely something we’re fighting for. Home ice is a huge advantage. Right now, all you can worry about is Friday night’s game and just take it one step at a time.”

North Dakota has sole possession of first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 41 points and holds a three-point edge over second-place Miami — its opponent on the road next weekend.

The Huskies sit in the No. 6 spot in the NCHC with 31 points. Yet with the top power play unit in the conference at 23.4 percent, North Dakota knows it will face a challenge.

“They’re a great team,” Caggiula said. “Maybe their standings don’t show how well they’ve been playing. My three years here, they’ve always given us trouble playing at the Ralph. They’re trying to make their way up the Pairwise ranking — so are we. So it’s going to be a hard-fought series, that’s for sure. Every team wants to come in and try and ruin somebody else’s senior weekend, so that’s something we don’t want to happen. We want to go out on a good note for those seniors.”

While this team is focused on each task at hand, emotions might run a little higher on senior weekend.

“It’s definitely in the backs of our minds,” Caggiula said. “You always want to win for your seniors. It’s a big weekend for them. It’s in the backs of our minds for sure, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to focus on playing hockey and do the things that make us successful.”

North Dakota only has three wins in its last 10 games with St. Cloud State and posts a 0-3-1 record in the teams’ last four meetings.

With such high stakes, this weekend marks a chance to retaliate.

North Dakota currently has one of the most productive seniors classes that ranks No. 3 in the nation in goals with 49 and sits fourth in points with 109.

They’re a group that’s skated through the familiar, slow first-half en route to a strong finish in multiple seasons. They’re a class that’s fallen just short of their ultimate goal each year, hoping this one will end a little differently.

They’ve turned around seasons themselves and watched other seniors before them pass through the locker room.

This time, it’s their turn.

“Those guys will handle it well,” Hakstol said. “There’s always a little extra emotion on senior weekend, but probably the word I’d use with this group of seniors is presence. Those emotions will be there. There’s no way to avoid that. I think we’ll welcome those and adjust and handle them the right way.”

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