NCHC Frozen Faceoff notebook: Fighting Hawks players have a history at the 'X'
Drew DeRidder is enjoying the most success of his collegiate career; Brad Berry isn't buying that anybody is an underdog in the NCHC.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The memories came flooding back for Jackson Blake when he stepped onto the ice at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday afternoon.
The last time he skated on that ice sheet, Blake scored the overtime winner in the Minnesota state Class AA boys hockey championship game, lifting Eden Prairie to the title over Lakeville South.
Two years later, Blake is back at the Xcel Energy Center with UND.
The Fighting Hawks will take on St. Cloud State at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff semifinals.
Blake isn't the only UND player who has won a high school state title in St. Paul.
UND captain Mark Senden and junior Griffin Ness were teammates on Wayzata's 2016 title team. Alternate captain Gavin Hain had a hat trick in the 2017 final, leading Grand Rapids to a title over Ethan Frisch's Moorhead Spuds.
"Definitely great memories back in high school," Senden said. "But this is a great opportunity to be down here with this group of guys this year. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and having the opportunity to play here again."
Congrats the to Eden Prairie Eagles, they are your class AA champions this season. pic.twitter.com/sp7pnkd0zm— FollowThePuck (@FollowThePuck) April 4, 2021
DeRidder enjoying late-season run
UND goaltender Drew DeRidder is enjoying the most success of his collegiate career.
During his first four seasons at Michigan State, his career high for wins in a year was nine.
DeRidder, who transferred to UND this summer, has that many wins in the last two months alone.
"When things aren't going well, it's easy to get down on yourself and the team," DeRidder said. "But when things are going well, it's just so much fun. When we're winning games, you can't beat the feeling. Coming to the rink is so much fun, it's hard to explain."
Since Dec. 8, DeRidder is 10-4-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
Berry not buying 'underdogs' in NCHC
Despite being a higher seed, St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson labeled his team as underdogs in the game against UND.
It's a label Berry isn't buying for anyone in the NCHC — not even Colorado College, which is taking on regular-season champion Denver.
"I don't think there is an underdog in the NCHC," Berry said. "If you asked me if Colorado College was an underdog, absolutely not. They're fighting for their lives like we are. Going into that game tomorrow, I don't think they're an underdog. Don't let anyone fool you about being an underdog.
"For me, everybody that enters this building — all four teams — has a viable chance to win the playoff trophy. We have to win it. Our lives are on the line. Everybody has a chance and an opportunity. We want to grasp it."
Pregame parties set
UND will host a pregame party from 5-7 p.m. Friday at Patrick McGovern's Pub and Restaurant.
It is located a couple of blocks down 7th Street from Xcel Energy Center.
If UND advances to the championship game, there will be another pregame party from 5-7 p.m. Saturday at McGovern's.
NCHC Frozen Faceoff
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul.
Semifinals: Colorado College vs. Denver, 4 p.m., UND vs. St. Cloud State, 7:30 p.m.
Championship: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
TV: CBS Sports Network.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM), UND games only.