UND hoping history repeats itself as it prepares for series at Western Michigan
The Fighting Hawks were in an eerily similar situation nine years ago when it played the Broncos in Lawson Ice Arena.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Nine years ago, UND was in almost an identical spot.
UND was two games under .500 as it made a trip to Western Michigan and Lawson Ice Arena for an early December series, desperately needing to get victories and momentum to salvage the season.
The two-game series was not pretty. UND got outshot both nights, but it found a way to win a pair of 3-2 games.
It wasn't like UND snapped its fingers and suddenly cured everything that weekend. But it did start moving the team in the right direction.
The next weekend, it won two more games against Northern Michigan. Then, it won two more after Christmas break against Colorado College. UND got a little better each weekend and the ball started rolling downhill.
That team snuck into the NCAA tournament and reached the Frozen Four.
Here we are again nine years later.
UND is, once again, two games under .500, as it prepares for an early December series at Western Michigan.
The Fighting Hawks, who allowed 13 goals last weekend at St. Cloud State and rank 51st nationally in goals allowed per game, probably won't instantly solve all those defensive issues — especially playing the No. 1-ranked offensive team in the country in Western Michigan.
But if it can find a way to win games — even if it's ugly like in 2013-14 — it could turn the momentum before Christmas.
"It's probably simplifying your game a little bit right now," UND coach Brad Berry said. "Every goal doesn't have to be picture perfect. Every play doesn't have to be picture perfect."
UND (6-8-3) has taken a unique approach to this week.
During this week of practice, it did everything together. The players all stepped on the ice at the same time for practices. They all left the ice at the same time. They all worked out in the gym at the same time.
Usually, some players step on the ice early or linger after practice.
"We've been writing it on the boards, especially the last couple weeks, 'Team First,'" forward Louis Jamernik V said. "When teams go through hard times, it's easy to point fingers and kind of separate that way. But our coaching staff has been preaching staying tight as a group. Everybody's together and we're going through it all together and that helps on the mental aspect."
This is the last series before Christmas break for the Fighting Hawks.
Then, they'll take three weeks off before playing an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 Team on New Year's Eve.
"There are a lot of guys banged up and working through stuff — everybody's dealing with something — so just give it everything we've got," Jamernik V said. "There's nothing to save it for. We can grind through it. Don't take a single shift off. If we can finish the right way, that'll kind of lead us into the break with a positive mindset, a better mood, and get our second half started on the right foot."
That's exactly what happened nine years ago.
- NCHC teams are allowed to bring 23 players on road trips for league games. The four players who did not make the trip to Kalamazoo are forward Jackson Kunz, defenseman Brent Johnson, goalie Kaleb Johnson and injured forward Dane Montgomery, who has yet to play this season.
- UND forward Jackson Blake will head to USA Hockey's World Junior Championship camp directly after the series. It is being held in Plymouth, Mich., about a two-hour drive from Kalamazoo. Western Michigan head coach Pat Ferschweiler will go from coaching against Blake to being his coach in the span of a few hours. Ferschweiler is an assistant coach for the U.S.
- The next NCHC series for both the Fighting Hawks and Broncos will be against each other again. They are set to play in Grand Forks on Jan. 13-14.
UND at No. 17 Western Michigan
When: 6:05 p.m. Friday, 5:05 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Lawson Ice Arena, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).