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Like past destination games, UND to take in the city

The Fighting Hawks will mix team-building in Nashville with the business of the game.

Bridgestone Arena in Nashville
A general view of hockey fans outside the stadium before game six of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The UND hockey team views it as a business trip to Nashville.

The Fighting Hawks have a key game against Penn State at 7:07 p.m. Saturday in Bridgestone Arena that will factor into its NCAA tournament hopes at the end of the season.

But that doesn't mean the players will be sequestered into their hotel rooms all weekend.

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UND coach Brad Berry will follow the same philosophy as previous destination games during his tenure in New York City and Las Vegas. Berry and the team will get out to do a few activities in the city on Friday before settling into the game routine ahead of Saturday night's U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.

The exact activities are under wraps for now.

"We talk about it being a business trip and doing everything we can to try to win that game," Berry said. "But we look at it as a team-building event.

"It's a fine line."

In 2016, Berry took the team to Ground Zero and the National Sept. 11 Memorial a day before the College Hockey Showdown.

"When we were in New York City, we went to Ground Zero to pay our respects as a team," Berry said.

UND went on to beat Boston College 4-3 in Madison Square Garden the next day.

In Las Vegas in 2018, the players cruised The Strip and snapped photos at landmarks such as the Bellagio Fountains a day before their showdown against rival Minnesota in Orleans Arena.

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UND went on to beat Minnesota 3-1 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.

"That's another day of trying to bring our team together," Berry said.

The players are looking forward to the Nashville adventure.

"It will be a really cool experience to see Nashville, explore a little bit, but then at the end of the day, it's a business trip," goalie Zach Driscoll said. "On Saturday night, we have a big game to take care of."

Preds, Isles in town

The UND-Penn State game Saturday will be preceded by an NHL game between the Nashville Predators and the New York Islanders. That game begins at 12:30 p.m.

Three former UND players are currently on those rosters of those teams.

Rocco Grimaldi is with the Predators, while Brock Nelson and Zach Parise are with the Islanders.

"Brock reached out to me about trying to get together on Friday for a coffee," Berry said. "I think that's outstanding as far as having guys who are still in the NHL, yet they are engrained and watching every move we make here at North Dakota."

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Practice but no morning skate

UND's first time skating in Bridgestone Arena will be when it takes the ice for warmups Saturday night.

The Fighting Hawks will hold a practice in Nashville on Friday afternoon, but it will be at another rink in town. Neither UND nor Penn State will hold a morning skate Saturday, because of the Predators-Islanders game.

After UND and Penn State leave Saturday night, the arena will begin to get ready to host the Country Music Awards.

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