It’s time for one more tune-up for UND.
UND will play the U.S. Under-18 team at 7:37 tonight in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
We’ll get a chance to see some new line combos, and perhaps, Andrew MacWilliam for the first time this season.
This game also will be a chance for UND fans to see into the future a couple of years. Defenseman commit Keaton Thompson is expected to be on the top pair for the U.S. Under-18 team. Thompson has been playing on the top pair with Denver recruit Will Butcher recently.
Area hockey fans also will get a chance to see East Grand Forks native Gage Ausmus suit up for the American squad. Ausmus is committed to Denver for 2013 or 2014.
For a full story on Thompson and Ausmus, check it out here. Also in that story are some interesting comments from Nick Mattson about what it’s like to play in this game as a committed recruit.
There will be an interesting twist to this weekend’s exhibition. The U.S. Under-18 team has picked up Frank Vatrano to play against UND and Bemidji State. Vatrano suited up for the U18s last season and was slated to go to Boston College this year. He enrolled but left the team under somewhat mysterious circumstances recently, reported to be revolved around academics.
College Hockey News featured the changes surrounding this year’s UND team in its preseason preview story. CHN also lists Rocco Grimaldi as a player to watch and Jordan Schmaltz as a rookie to watch in this story.
Inside College Hockey has its WCHA preview here. It highlights UND’s goaltending battle between Clarke Saunders and Zane Gothberg.
There’s a story on the front page of NHL.com on UND recruit Luke Johnson and his family. Read that here.
The Duluth News Tribune has a WCHA preview here.
Also, this week’s episode of Through These Doors is posted on YouTube.
There were two games of note on Thursday night.
Michigan Tech lost to Lake Superior State 4-2. The Huskies led 2-1 in the third but gave up three straight. Probably a learning game for a Husky team that has several new faces in the lineup, including star forward recruit Jujhar Khaira, who was ejected 8 minutes in for checking from behind.
RIT also stunned Michigan 5-4 in overtime. The Wolverines led that one 3-0 in the first period and 4-2 in the third before letting it slip away.
In all, nine of the 12 WCHA teams get underway this weekend.
Michigan State at Minnesota: Last year of the WCHA, but a Big Ten test for the favored Gophers to start out the season.
St. Cloud State at New Hampshire: Most interesting matchup of the first weekend. I’m high on both teams. Neither made the NCAAs last season, but I believe both will this year. This should be a great battle.
MSU-Mankato at Huntsville: It’s the opening of the Mike Hastings Era… and Clarke Saunders is no longer at UAH to steal victories from WCHA teams.
Ohio State at Duluth: Interesting test off the bat for the Bulldogs, who have to replace some very big pieces from last year’s team.
Clarkson at Colorado College: The Tigers lost a lot of scoring from last season’s team. I have them finishing in the lower half of the league because I don’t know who is going to replace that scoring. Can someone step forward this weekend?
Canisius and Air Force at Anchorage: The Seawolves host their tournament to start the season. These will be two tests for them before they play a shorthanded UND team next weekend in Fairbanks.
Wisconsin at Northern Michigan*: Badger start recruit Nic Kerdiles is still in NCAA limbo and won’t play this weekend. This series is being held in Green Bay. It is Northern Michigan’s home game, though.
Omaha at Ice Breaker: The Ice Breaker is in Kansas City. Omaha will open with Army, then play either Maine or Notre Dame. Pretty good field once again for the Ice Breaker.
Lake Superior State at Michigan Tech: Game 2 of the series is Saturday in Houghton.
Lastly, there’s a UND fan lunch at the Alerus at noon today. It costs $10. Coaches will speak at it.
And stop back tonight for the live chat during UND’s exhibition game.