Alright, the time has come. UND is facing its biggest rival in Denver at the Ralph, which is certainly going to be a joy for both the fans and the players, being that North Dakota has spent the last three weekends on the road. There's some things to look for this weekend:
- DU is starting freshman goalie Sam Brittain. This will be a huge test for him, facing the potent Sioux offense in a very hostile environment
- DU has been bitten by the injury bug early this season. Paul Phillips actually had a nosebleed that had to be cauterized. I have seen a family member have this happen to them, so I know what he's going through. Sophomore goalie Adam Murray is out for this series as well with a groin injury, junior Dustin Jackson has mono, and freshman Nick Shore is out with a wrist injury.
- Will Hextall get under DU's skin? Brett Hextall is an agitator, nearly on par with Claude Lemieux or Matthew Barnaby. He has been known to get under DU's skin quite a bit, and this is very well shown in a video two years ago. The Sioux were beating down DU and Hextall caused a DU player to slash him, giving the Sioux a 5x3 advantage.
- What will UND's goalie situation be? Eids, we know he's good, but he's not playing well. Dell has been good, but has gotten shelled too. Neither Sioux goalie seems up to the task right now, and against Denver, they will have to be. It'll be interesting to see who starts on which nights. Both goalies need to have a big game, and this would be a superb weekend to do so.
- Kristo. He needs to get going. He's been quiet so far and his name really hasn't been called at all this year. Time for him to show up and play. He played well against DU last year and I expect the same this weekend.
- The Sioux MUST keep it together mentally. Denver, as I mentioned, is North Dakota's biggest rival right now, and these two teams do not like each other. We saw what happened last weekend when the Sioux spent half the games in the box. They have to keep their heads about themselves. No retaliation penalties. No stupid crap that will force the officials hands. The WCHA is more inclined to let things go; it doesn't give the Sioux an excuse to play stupid hockey. DU will be coming at them guns blazing. Let them take the penalties. The Sioux have an excellent powerplay; it would be nice to see it showcased some.
Playing your biggest rival can be very taxing. The Sioux know they are under pressure to perform. They have the tools to succeed and the coaching staff believes in them. It's time for the players to start believing in themselves. They are definitely a hot and cold team this year thus far. And I know everyone will use the 2nd half argument, but we've also seen the team crash and burn come post-season time. Personally, with the weapons they have this season, I'd like to just see them crush the opposition and damn near run the table, similar to what BU did in the 2008-2009 season.
I'm looking forward to both games though. Time to rebound, boys!