Weekly Wednesday update

No more off weeks the rest of the season for the UND men’s hockey team unless it reaches the Frozen Four.

The mad dash to the finish in the NCHC is about to begin. The stretch run — five weeks of all conference games — starts with Nebraska Omaha this weekend at The Ralph.

I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see Zane Gothberg this weekend as he’s still not practicing with the team yet, but it’s entirely possible that Clarke Saunders would have received the call this weekend anyway with his history against Nebraska Omaha.

Saunders stole games for Alabama Huntsville against Omaha his freshman and sophomore years. He stole another one in November in a game where several members of the team were under the weather.

Omaha goaltender Ryan Massa is doubtful for the weekend, too, though Mav coach Dean Blais has never been predictable when it comes to goalies. Kirk Thompson has played 11 games this season for the Mavs.

UND has the best home record in the NCHC, as listed below, but Omaha has been better on the road than at home this season.

In Friday’s paper, I’ll have a story on Stephane Pattyn, who some teammates describe as a “man’s man.” You’ll find out why. You’ll also find out what teammates called him before he became “The General.”

This week’s Q&A is with Colten St. Clair.

Weekly Wednesday update

Apologies for the late update, but today was a way-too-busy day with way-too-many stories to write before deadline.

UND will bench freshman defenseman Paul LaDue for Friday night’s game because of a noisy party citation he received this week. The 21-year-old has played in every game so far this season for UND.

That makes it more likely that we will see freshman defenseman Keaton Thompson in the lineup. Thompson was the NCHC’s rookie of the week for his performance against St. Lawrence. If he’s not in, UND also could move Andrew Panzarella back to defense.

Junior center Mark MacMillan is back practicing and UND coach Dave Hakstol said he’s “hopeful” that MacMillan will be able to play against the Broncos. That would be a big lift – assuming he’s able to skate better than he could against Duluth.

Hakstol said that Colten St. Clair won’t be back this weekend, but didn’t rule him out for the Northern Michigan series. He said chances are that St. Clair will return sometime after Christmas. He has been skating.

As for goaltending, sophomore Zane Gothberg said he thought he played his best game of the year on Saturday. He said he felt very comfortable in the net. He also said he knows that his next step is finding more consistency.

UND will be going up against Frank Slubowski, aka The Big Slubowski, who is one of the NCHC’s top netminders. WMU plays great defensively around him and UND will really have to work to generate offense against the Broncos. Slubowski is the guy who was in net for WMU for the 2012 NCAA regional game.

UND fans also will see a familiar face on the other side in senior forward Mike Cichy, who played two seasons at UND. Things haven’t come easy for Cichy early this season – he has no points in 10 games – but I’m sure he’d like nothing more than to get on track this weekend.

That’s it for now – off to Kalamazoo today. Hopefully we’ll have some more updates (not related to the weather and travel problems). Did I mention that it is 58 degrees in Kalamazoo right now?

Similar lineup expected

Brendan O’Donnell should be back in the lineup Friday when UND takes on St. Lawrence in nonconference action at Ralph Engelstad Arena, but that may be it for UND’s injured players.

Injured forwards Mark MacMillan, Colten St. Clair and Derek Rodwell are all expected to miss this weekend’s series.

That means UND should have a similar lineup to last weekend’s series against Boston University.

O’Donnell has practiced all week. St. Clair and Rodwell have skated at practice, but they’ve been limited. MacMillan is not skating.

UND coach Dave Hakstol said that defenseman Andrew Panzarella will remain at winger this week for UND. The coaching staff is still trying to decide whether to play Gage Ausmus at wing or defense.

If Ausmus is at wing, presumably Keaton Thompson will be in at D and Mitch MacMillan will be out. If Ausmus is moved back to defense, then Thompson will be out and MacMillan in.

UND short forwards vs. BU

It’s unlikely that UND will have enough healthy forwards to fill four lines when it goes to Boston University this weekend.

Mark MacMillan, Brendan O’Donnell and Colten St. Clair have all been ruled out for the series and Derek Rodwell’s status also is in doubt.

That would leave UND with 11 available forwards.

To address the issue, UND has moved defensemen Andrew Panzarella and Gage Ausmus up front to wing this week in practice. Hakstol says we should expect to see them there this weekend.