KALAMAZOO, Mich. — It was a bit quieter than usual when the University of North Dakota hockey team landed in Kalamazoo on Thursday, Dec.5.
There was no Cam Johnson or Christian Wolanin to fill the air with gushing comments about their native state. UND has just one Michigander on the roster this season in junior forward Collin Adams of Brighton, and it's not quite his style to be as boisterous.
Adams did make himself feel at home on the ice, though.
He scored on his first two attempts in the team's weekly shootout and finished tied with Westin Michaud as the team's best shooters for the week.
Adams, who didn't have a point in last year's series at Lawson Ice Arena, will look to tally his first point in his native state since he played junior hockey in Muskegon when No. 3 UND plays at No. 17 Western Michigan at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Here are 10 other things to know about this weekend's two-game series:
1. Lunatics to target Andrew Peski
The Western Michigan student section is known as the Lawson Lunatics. They're loud and often vulgar, regularly earning stern warnings from the public address announcer to tone it down.
Their most frequent target this weekend will be UND senior defenseman Andrew Peski.
Peski knows this. He made trips to Lawson as a freshman and a junior and was a target at that time, too.
It's not anything against Peski specifically. The Lawson Lunatics always pick on whatever opponent is wearing No. 4.
2. Lawson is where Adam Scheel's rookie season ended
UND goalie Adam Scheel was red hot when he entered Lawson Ice Arena on the night of Feb. 16.
He had a .952 save percentage in his previous five games and beat nationally ranked Western Michigan in Lawson the previous evening. Scheel had established himself as the go-to starter and was one of UND's most impressive players to that point in the season. But his year unexpectedly came to an end that night.
After allowing a shorthanded goal in the third period to Western Michigan's Hugh McGing, UND forward Rhett Gardner and Western Michigan forward Jade McMullen got tangled up trailing the play and crashed into Scheel.
Scheel suffered a knee injury on that play that ended his impressive freshman season.
Scheel, who had started every game from Dec. 1 until he got hurt (a 15-game stretch), gave way to Peter Thome for the rest of the season.
3. Western has had major injury problems
It's doubtful that any team in college hockey has faced the injuries that Western Michigan has this season.
The Broncos have consistently been without several key players starting all the way back in Game 1, when second-round Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Wade Allison, second-round Buffalo Sabres draft pick Mattias Samuelsson and senior puck-moving defenseman Cam Lee were out of the lineup.
The Broncos had last weekend off, but in their most recent series two weeks ago, Western Michigan was without Allison, forward Josh Passolt, forward Drew Worrad, forward Jason Polin and defenseman Ronnie Attard, a third-round pick of the Flyers.
Broncos coach Andy Murray declined to elaborate on injuries during his weekly press conference.
"We don't like to send out signals on what's wrong with particular players," Murray said.
4. Western, Washe dominating in draws
UND is used to dominating the faceoff battle.
The Fighting Hawks finished No. 1 in the nation the last two seasons in faceoff percentage, and they rank No. 10 this season at 54.1 percent.
But UND won't be favored to win in that category this weekend.
Western Michigan enters the weekend as the nation's top faceoff team at 56.4 percent.
Western Michigan forward Paul Washe, who played junior hockey in Fargo, is the nation's best faceoff man. Washe is at 67.4 percent for the season and hasn't been under .500 for any of Western Michigan's 14 games this season.
UND's best faceoff men are Jasper Weatherby (60.3 percent), Shane Pinto (58.6) and Adams (55.7).
5. A rookie in net
Western Michigan has rolled with a freshman in net.
Brandon Bussi of Sound Beach, N.Y., who played junior hockey for Muskegon in the United States Hockey League last season, has started all 14 games for the Broncos. He has posted a .909 save percentage, which is on pace to be one of Western Michigan's best goaltending years in recent times.
Western Michigan's team save percentages the last five years have been: .891, .879, .904, .887 and .900.
The last time the Broncos were better than .906 was during the 2013-14 season, when Frank Slubowski and Lukas Hafner combined for a .910.
Bussi and Scheel are two of 16 college hockey goalies who have started every game for their teams this season.
6. Broncos have NHL connections
Four Western Michigan players have NHL connections.
Brothers Mattias Samuelsson (sophomore defenseman) and Lukas Samuelsson (junior forward) are the sons of Kjell Samuelsson, who played 14 NHL seasons for the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Western Michigan's speedy senior forward Lawton Courtnall is the son of Russ, who played 16 years in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings.
Western Michigan defenseman Kale Bennett is the son of current Colorado Avalanche assistant Ray Bennett, who knows Broncos head coach Andy Murray well. Bennett served as an assistant coach under Murray for six years with the Los Angeles Kings and three more with the St. Louis Blues.
7. Murray has high praise for UND
Murray's oldest son, Brady, played for UND from 2003-05 before signing a pro deal in Switzerland. Andy has always been full of praise for UND's program and this week was no exception.
"North Dakota is such a special opponent for us," Murray said. "We've had nothing but great games with them. They're a program we're trying to emulate with their culture and how hard they play the game. I think that's the reason we've had so many great games with them. We both play physical, smart and fast."
Murray recognized that the high praise goes both ways, recalling that at last year's NCHC preseason press conference, all of the coaches and captains were asked which visiting venue is the most difficult to play in. UND coach Brad Berry and captain Colton Poolman both said Lawson Ice Arena.
"We hope it's a really tough weekend for them," Murray said. "We really have a good relationship with their staff. We're excited to have them here. We're going to do everything we can Friday."
8. UND won the NCAA title the last time it swept at Lawson
UND's last sweep in Lawson Ice Arena came during the 2015-16 NCAA national championship season.
The Fighting Hawks beat the Broncos 2-0 (empty-net goal) and 2-1 in back-to-back tight games. Brock Boeser, now a star for the Vancouver Canucks, scored three of the four goals that weekend.
UND is 1-3 in Lawson since then.
The Fighting Hawks got swept in 2016-17, didn't play in Kalamazoo during the 2017-18 season and split a year ago.
9. Broncos to wear special jerseys
Western Michigan will wear special jerseys for Military Appreciation Night on Saturday.
The jerseys will be auctioned after the game.
10. Kingston coming alive
With the absence of key players due to injury, the Broncos have needed others to step up. Washe has done that.
Another key emerging player has been sophomore forward Rhett Kingston.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Alberta native had three points in his first 19 career games. Since then, he has eight points in the last five games, including a hat trick at Ferris State.
Kingston factored into all three of Western Michigan's goals in its most recent series against Denver two weeks ago. Kingston has eight points on Western's last 15 goals.