Snow may be falling and the wind may be howling, but admit it, the best part of the year has arrived.
College hockey is back.
For UND, it begins at 7:07 tonight when the women host Minnesota State-Mankato in a WCHA series. Game two of the series will be at 2:07 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Fans will get their first look at the men’s team at 7:07 p.m. Saturday in an exhibition game against the University of Manitoba.
Since there’s not a lot of reading material out there, I’ll switch up the first Friday morning reading of the season a little bit. Check out 10 things to look for this weekend in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
10 things to watch this weekend
1. UND will start an all-Greater Grand Forks top line. EGF’s Leah Jensen, a redshirt freshman, will play alongside the Lamoureux twins on the top line.
2. The Canadian U18ers. UND’s first two Canadian U18 recruits are true freshmen on this year’s team. Becca Kohler is a power forward. Meghan Dufault is more of a finesse player. How will they adapt to the WCHA game?
3. The chase for 100. Jocelyne Lamoureux needs 100 points this season to become the all-time Division I women’s hockey leading scorer. A number that large does not sound realistic. But it’s the Lamoureux twins. Hard to say anything is impossible with them. But they will need to have a ton of big games, starting with this series, to make it a possibility.
4. The defense. It needs to be improved from last season in order to make a run to the Frozen Four. Does UND have what it takes on the blue line to shut down high-powered teams like Minnesota?
5. No Means. MSU-Mankato will be without head coach Eric Means, who is serving a suspension from last season. Means did not make the trip to Grand Forks.
6. The goaltending battles. This goes for both sides. The women’s team will have a competition between redshirt freshman Shelby Amsley-Benzie and senior Jorid Dagfinrud. I’d expect to see Amsley-Benzie make her college debut. On the men’s side, there is no goalie who has played a minute in net for UND. Will the Alabama-Huntsville transfer Clarke Saunders show he’s the No. 1 guy? Or will it be Zane Gothberg, UND’s first goalie from Thief River since a guy named Ralph Engelstad?
7. El Rocco. Perhaps UND’s most anticipated freshman since Jonathan Toews, Rocco Grimaldi never got to show what he could do last year as he had a season-ending knee injury. This should be a chance for fans to see the real Rocco for the first time.
8. Jordan Schmaltz. In last year’s preseason exhibition game, it was clear that Nick Mattson had special skills and would be a key player for UND right away. Can Schmaltz show some of the same signs that Mattson did last year?
9. Colten St. Clair. The Arizona native was expected to be a reliable two-way player for UND last season, but that got unexpectedly sidetracked because of a strange academic situation involving an online school. St. Clair waited out what had to be a tough year and is now able to give it a go.
10. The sophomores. We saw the potential of guys like Mattson, Mark MacMillan, Michael Parks and Brendan O’Donnell to be big offensive contributors. Are they ready to take the next step?