GRAND FORKS, ND– More than just a spot in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff is at stake this weekend between the University of North Dakota and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, as both are fighting for a spot in the National Tournament. With the Pairwise Ranking being the determining factor for a tournament spot– both UND and UNO are on the bubble at 15th and 14th respectively. With both teams facing off against each other in a best-of-three NCHC Quarterfinal match-up; it’s almost a win-and-in scenario for both sides.
“We need this one,” said defenseman Colton Poolman during media availability on Wednesday. “If we lose this one we probably don’t have much of a shot. From here on out it’s a must win situation.”
“You know, they’re a hard team, they’ve got some big bodies,” said defenseman Hayden Shaw of Omaha. “We really used this week to focus on ourselves and how we’re gonna play them. We’ve used the video in the past to see what we need to work on. It all comes from translating from practice into games.”
“They have four lines that play extremely hard,” said head coach Brad Berry. “We know their power play with David Pope is really good there, but they score by committee. We know Tyler Vesel and Pope and Steven Spinner are a very good unit, but they have a lot of good units there.”
This past weekend, UND split a series with the #1 team in the nation in St. Cloud State, losing on Friday, winning on Saturday with both games going to overtime. Those games are something that UND will try to carry over into the weekend.
“We got to bring the same mentality,” mentioned Poolman. “We were fighting for our lives this last weekend and we needed good results. We got it on Saturday. It’s live or die– we got to bring that attitude all weekend.”
“It’s good to look at, especially with last weekend against the #1 team,” said Shaw. “It’s used as a confidence boost into this weekend. Our starts were great and we stayed level-headed most of the game. We’re going to take that weekend and translated it into the playoffs.”
With Omaha, UND will be hoping to get a more consistent result than the previous meetings this year, splitting the season series with both the Fighting Hawks wins coming via shutout. UND has outscored Omaha 14-10 in their four games this season.
“They’re a team that’s grown a lot this year,” Berry said about Omaha. “We feel very familiar with them because we just played them. They have added a lot to their offense. These are going to be hard heavy series.”
“All this boils down to is us and them,” continued Berry. “We need to build on the outcome of the game (Saturday night against St. Cloud). There’s a lot going into this. Two teams neck and neck in the Pairwise and trying to making to the Frozen Faceoff.”
The best-of-three starts Friday with Saturday being Game 2 and if necessary, Sunday hosting Game 3.