Hawks spending the weekend Gopher hunting

The UND women’s hockey team travels to Minneapolis this weekend to take on the University of Minnesota.

When the Gophers and Fighting Hawks last met in October, they split their two matches in Grand Forks.

UND versus Minnesota is always a matchup that is circled on the calendar, but it’s especially true when both teams are having good seasons.

Coming into the matchup, both teams are nationally ranked with the Fighting Hawks ranked No. 8 and the Gophers ranked No. 3.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Gophers roll into the series with a full head of steam. Minnesota has won nine straight games and have the second highest scoring offense in the nation.

Playing in Minneapolis will pose a very difficult challenge for UND. The Fighting Hawks have only come back from Minneapolis victorious two times in the last five seasons. As is the case most seasons, the Gophers play very well on home ice. This does not intimidate the Fighting Hawks though.

“Confidence-wise, there is nobody that we fear in the whole country,” UND coach Brian Idalski said. “We’ve proven we can play with anyone, top to bottom.”

The Hawks have not lost a game this season when playing on Friday. On the other side, the Gophers have yet to lose a game on home ice this season, boasting a 12-0 record.

One of these trends needs to end.

A trio of UND forwards, senior Meghan Dufault, senior Becca Kohler and junior Amy Menke, have all been having phenomenal years. The three Hawks have combined for 76 points and are a combined + 29 in the +/- category. They have been creating havoc for other teams trying to defend them and will have to continue their high level of play to beat the Gophers and their potent offense.

Since the schools last matchup, things have changed for the Fighting Hawks. They now use four lines instead of three, which all the other teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association also use. This allows for more rest in between shifts and keeps players fresh for the end of the game.

Last weekend, UND hosted Minnesota State University Mankato. The Fighting Hawks won the first, then took the Mavericks to overtime and won in a shootout, earning very important points.

As with last weekend, this weekend will be very important for the Fighting Hawks. Not only are they taking on their long-time rival, but a win or two against the Gophers would be huge for UND in the PairWise rankings.

With only four more games, after this weekend, the Fighting Hawks will be looking to get as many points as they can to improve their playoff positioning. They are currently one spot away from a bid to the NCAA national tournament.

“You have to take it game by game,” Idalski said. “Most importantly for us, we have to get healthy, we have a couple kids banged up.”

When UND is healthy, it is a very strong team that could make some noise at the national tournament.

Puck drop is at 6:07 p.m., Friday night in Minneapolis at Ridder Arena and 4:07 p.m. Saturday.

Adam Gunderman is a sports writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]