Fighting Hawks look to kennel rival Bulldogs

UND forward Austin Poganski battles for position against Colorado College. Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student

The UND men’s hockey team will be looking for some redemption at home this weekend against NCHC rival Minnesota-Duluth.

The Fighting Hawks are coming off a rare occurrence last weekend against Denver. UND was swept on the road for the first time since November 2011. Denver overpowered the normally strong Cam Johnson and outplayed UND’s defenders. The Hawks gave up 10 goals over those two games, a fact that does not sit well with anyone in the locker room.

“I think it’s a reality check. I think it gets our minds going on what we have to do to win critical games in the playoffs.”

— Austin Poganski

“It’s not acceptable for our program to lose two games in a row,” UND captain Gage Ausmus said. “No matter where we are at or no matter what team we play.”

For a storied program such as UND, losses are never acceptable, but if handled in the right way can be turned into a positive.

“I think it’s a reality check,” UND forward Austin Poganski said. “I think it gets our minds going on what we have to do to win critical games in the playoffs.”

Luckily for the Hawks, the reality check was not as detrimental as it could have been.

UND is still tied atop the NCHC with St. Cloud State with 41 point a piece. They also managed to stay ranked in the top five in the nation this week, moving down to No. 4.

That being said, now is the point in the year in which teams need to play their best hockey, UND included.

That gets a bit easier as the Hawks are headed home for the first time since Jan. 23. Per usual, playing in the Ralph Engelstad Arena has given UND a home ice advantage as the Hawks have gone 10-2-1 over the course of the season. It also helps to be playing an opponent that they have been successful against this season.

The last time the Hawks played the Bulldogs was in mid-December and they thoroughly beat UMD in its own building. The Hawks shut out Duluth in both games, winning 3-0 in both contests. Since the 2009-10 season, UND has gone 13-5-1 while playing its NCHC rival and hopes to add to that total this weekend.

While the focus for this weekend is taking care of business against Duluth on home ice, some members of the team are being awarded for their work outside the rink.

Recently, the NCHC released its list for Academic All-Conference Team, which included five UND players. The list includes Poganski, Johnson, Matt Hyrnkiw, Tucker Poolman and Johnny Simonson.

Between the uncharacteristic sweep of last weekend and the end of the year approaching, the Hawks will have plenty of motivation when facing the Bulldogs. They will need it to avoid faltering any more in the hyper-competitive NCHC. Puck drops tonight at 7:38 p.m. and at 7:07 p.m. Saturday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Alex Stadnik is the sports editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]