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Nanooks set to play in Grand Forks for first time since 1994

Alaska (Fairbanks) will play twice in Ralph Engelstad Arena during the 2023-24 season.

ChrisJandric1.jpg
Chris Jandric, who now plays for UND, holds up the Governor's Cup after winning it as a member of Alaska Fairbanks' men's hockey team.
Photo by Paul McCarthy
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GRAND FORKS — UND fans will get to see a unique opponent come to Ralph Engelstad Arena during the 2023-24 season.

The University of Alaska (Fairbanks) Nanooks will play in Grand Forks for the first time in 30 years.

UND has signed a contract to bring the Nanooks in for a two-game series. There is not a trip back to Fairbanks scheduled. The exact dates of the series are yet to be finalized.

While the Fighting Hawks are used to playing Alaska Anchorage — UND and the Seawolves once were in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association together — the Nanooks have never been a staple on the schedule.

Alaska has only been to Grand Forks twice.

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The first-ever meeting came on Jan. 5, 1990, when the Nanooks were coached by Don Lucia. UND won 6-1 behind two goals from Dave Hakstol. The next night, UND finished the sweep with an 8-2 victory.

The Nanooks' last visit to Grand Forks came in January 1994. Alaska, then coached by Dave Laurion, swept that two-game series.

UND has only played the Nanooks twice since then — both in Alaska. UND beat them 3-1 in Anchorage in 2010 and lost to them 2-1 in Fairbanks in 2012.

The Fighting Hawks have one Fairbanks connection on this year's roster. Fifth-year senior defenseman Chris Jandric spent three years with the Nanooks before transferring to UND in the summer of 2021.

Jandric's eligibility will run out at the end of the upcoming season, though, so he won't face his old team.

The Nanooks are currently a Division-I independent. They were left without a home when Bemidji State, Minnesota State-Mankato, Ferris State, Bowling Green, Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State left the WCHA to revive the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Alaska played a 34-game schedule last season, notably beating NCAA Frozen Four-bound Minnesota and tying eventual NCAA national champion Denver on the road.

This season, the Nanooks have lined up 34 games again, including high-profile matchups against Denver and Notre Dame.

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Alaska is coached by Fairbanks native Erik Largen, who is entering his fifth season.

UND is nearing completion with its 2023-24 schedule. It also has signed contracts to play Bemidji State, Minnesota and Minnesota State-Mankato at home and Boston University on the road.

In 2024-25, UND is slated to host Boston University, play two-game series at Minnesota State-Mankato and Cornell, while taking on Bemidji State in a home-and-away series.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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