WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (9:55 p.m.) -- Happy Hump Day from downtown Minneapolis.
We've been here a little more than two hours now, having already unloaded the gear at the Target Center. The entire NCHC staff, as well as several representatives from the arena, were there to greet us when we arrived. All were on hand taking care of final preparations as the tournament nears.
Tomorrow the team will have an early afternoon practice, which will be attended by the CBS Sports Network crew of Ben Holden, Dave Starman and Shireen Saski. Starman and Saski will also host tomorrow night's NCHC Awards Ceremony, which takes place following all of the afternoon practices.
UNDsports.com will once again have full coverage of the conference tournament, beginning with the awards ceremony. Our crew of videographers and photographers -- David Folske, Eric Classen, Andy Parr and Conor Knuteson -- will be here in full force bringing you the sights and sounds throughout the weekend.
Continue to also check this blog throughout the weekend for plenty of updates.
THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2014
12:30 p.m. -- The players are stepping onto the ice for practice I type this. It will be a one-hour session followed by an afternoon of down time before heading to the NCHC Awards Celebration at 5 p.m.
The players got their media responsibilities out of the way before practice today. Dave Starman, Ben Holden and Shireen Saski -- who will call the games for CBS Sports Network -- took turns chatting with the likes of Mark MacMillan, Brendan O'Donnell, Connor Gaarder, Derek Rodwell, Stephane Pattyn, Rocco Grimaldi, Dillon Simpson and Zane Gothberg.
Simpson also did an interview for the NCHC website, as will Coach Hakstol following practice.
I tweeted some photos of the arena and press box from @UNDSID. Be sure to keep an eye on that account, as well as @UNDMHockey, throughout the weekend for news, notes and photos.
If you're in need of an information overload prior to Friday's game, you came to the right place:
UND Game Notes
UND Postseason Guide (large PDF file)
Miami Interviews (video): Rico Blasi, Riley Barber, Austin Czarnik
9:04 p.m. -- An absolutely full day in the books.
The first-ever NCHC Awards Celebration -- co-hosted by Dave Starman, Ben Holden and Shireen Saski -- proved to be a tremendous event.
Held at The Muse, the event was extremely well-attended, including members of the media. Production was first-rate and the program moved along quickly and finished up in about an hour, which is important for the participating teams who had team meals to get to.
Dillon Simpson, Michael Parks and Jordan Schmaltz were recognized for earning all-conference honors, and Simpson was also recognized for representing UND on the NCHC Scholar-Athlete team. Unfortunately, neither Dillon nor Zane Gothberg received any further individual honors despite being named finalists for four awards between them.
Still, all of the award recipients were incredibly deserving. Nice to see UND legend Jim Archibald in attendance. Archibald's son, Josh, was named NCHC Player of the Year after a phenomenal year for Nebraska Omaha. The award was presented by UND Athletics Director and NCHC Chairman of the Board Brian Faison.
UND head coach Dave Hakstol presented the Best Defensive Forward award, which went to St. Cloud State's Nic Dowd.
After an amazing dinner at Murray's in downtown Minneapolis, it's back to the hotel tonight. Everyone -- players and coaches alike -- is looking forward to the sea of green that is expected to arrive here tomorrow.
FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014
5:15 p.m. -- Although much more is obviously at stake, today was a much more routine travel day for the team.
Breakfast, followed by morning skate, followed video sessions, followed by down time at the hotel. Just like any other road trip, really.
UND is going with the same lineup it used last Saturday and Sunday against Colorado College, so Andrew Panzarella draws in at right wing on the fourth line, and Keaton Thompson gets the nod on the third defensive pairing.
By the looks of the downtown area all day, as well as the stands during the Denver-Western Michigan game currently taking place, this will essentially be a home game for UND. It's yet another terrific turnout by UND hockey fans.
From a tournament-wise, everything is running pretty smoothly so far, and the press box accommodations are above average.
The players said this morning that the ice was decent and seemed to be getting as the week went on, which makes sense considering they weren't able to get it installed until late Wednesday night. We'll see how it holds up through multiple games and practices.
That's your quick pre-game update. As always, keep checking back for updates throughout the weekend.
SATURDAY, MARCH 22, 2014
1:46 p.m. -- Game day, and hopefully not for the last time with a victory and a little help from others.
With the quick turnaround time leading up to today's game, UND came to the rink this morning to continue getting physically and mentally ready for this afternoon. The players and coaches turned the page immediately following last night's game, shifting their focus to today. Yes, UND needs some other games to fall a certain way, but none of that is in its hands. Only this game is.
It will be interesting to see how Western Michigan comes out. With zero chance of advancing to the national tournament, human nature would suggest it might be awfully easy to just go through the motions. However, that is a program with tons of pride and professionalism and the Broncos might enjoy nothing more than ending a team's season today.
UND has done some slight tinkering with the lineup, switching left wingers Stephane Pattyn and Brendan O'Donnell. Pattyn goes back to a line with Rocco Grimaldi and Luke Johnson, while O'Donnell reunites with Connor Gaarder and Derek Rodwell. Those units played together for quite some time prior to last Sunday night.
Additionally, Mitch MacMillan goes back into the lineup for Andrew Panzarella at left wing on the fourth line. Bryn Chyzyk moves back to the middle, with Colten St. Clair switching over to right wing.