This season, playing at home has been the University of North Dakota’s Kryptonite. In the past 10 games at Ralph Engelstad Arena, the Fighting Hawks are 2-6-2 (.300). Losing games at home is very uncharacteristic of the Hawks. Traditionally, UND has been very tough to beat at home. Before the 10-game slide, UND was 31-2-2 in their previous 35 home games.
Last weekend, the Hawks were unceremoniously swept at home by the University of Minnesota-Duluth (5-3, 5-0). Fast forward to this weekend, UND hopes to regain some momentum when they travel to Colorado Springs to take on the last-place Colorado College Tigers in an important two-game National Collegiate Hockey Conference series. After last weekend’s dismal results, the Fighting Hawks are ready to travel.
No Time for Panic
Before Hawks fans panic, UND is 8-5-1 (.607) in the last 14 games. Honestly, current struggles aside, that won-loss record isn’t all that bad. At this present moment, UND is ranked 12th in the Pairwise Rankings and if the NCAA playoffs started today, UND would be a low three seed. This season, UND is hosting the NCAA West Regional Championship in Fargo, ND. I can’t imagine that there aren’t a lot of teams that want to play against UND in the Scheel Arena.
If you dig deeper into UND’s record during the last 14 games, you will see that six of those eight wins were on the road. During those same 14 games, UND is 2-5-1 at home. Looking at the record, you will see that the Hawks have had much better record away from the Ralph. After being swept last weekend, going on the road might be just what the doctor ordered.
Home record aside, UND isn’t panicking, the Hawks’ players and the coaching staff know what has to be done. It’s pretty simple. This weekend, they need two wins.
“You can’t let frustration get into your game,” UND head coach Brad Berry said. “We’re disappointed with what happened last weekend. We were playing against a very good Duluth team. That (also) happened in the first half of the season (when we were swept by UMD) and we responded the right way after that. It’s no different than the first half of the season.
“We have to make sure that we respond in the right way. (We have to) keep our heads high and work extremely hard during the week in practice. We’ve had a good week in practice. We know we have to get better in few different areas and we will. This week it will be a good chance to start over.”
Fighting Hawks Ready to Travel
At the Wednesday’s hockey press conference, the Hawks players seemed relieved that they’re going on the road. So far this season, they’ve been pretty successful away from home.
“We’ve been doing a little bit better on the road for whatever reason,” junior forward Austin Poganski said. “On the road, guys just kind of hang out a lot more together and that creates a little chemistry. For some reason, we do really well on the road. As bad as it to say, it’s kind of nice to get out of here and get away.“
Poganski’s linemate echoed his sentiment.
Obviously, our road record has been really good this year,” sophomore forward Rhett Gardner said. “Especially, in the second half. So, we’re excited to get out there. I don’t know what it is. We not happy about the way we’ve played at home. For some reason, we just get up more for games on the road, so we’re excited to keep that going.
This season, some of the Hawks’ players have mentioned, that they’re more comfortable playing on the road than they are at home. The players have also mentioned that there’s a lot of bonding that takes place on the road trips. Maybe they need a road trip to knock off the rust and regain some focus.
“We’ve had some success on the road this year because I think our team is pretty tight as far as bonding on the road; spending a lot of time together, coach Berry said. “This is a very special place and we’ve had a lot of success in here, it’s just that it hasn’t been coming that easy here in the past few weekends. We’ve done well on the road and we have to remember how we’ve played on the road. It’s a very important weekend for us.”
This weekend is very important for the UND hockey team. Time is running out, UND sits fifth in the NCHC standings and they need wins if they want to host a playoff series.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.