GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Greetings from the best building you'll find anywhere in college hockey.
Yes, I said it.
The history alone puts The Ralph at the top of the list, but add in the visuals and the game-night presentation they put on here, and it's an experience like no other. I recognize it isn't for everyone, but I'm telling you how I feel.
There's a reason, after all, why most UMD players list this as their favorite opposing arena. They get it, too.
Anyway, should be a hell of a series. UND coach Dave Hakstol even said so. And he's right. These teams match up well together, with quality skating forwards, hard workers, and active defensemen. While North Dakota's non-conference strength of schedule doesn't match with UMD, their performances and opponents in league play are remarkably similar.
Counting this weekend along with last week's exhibition games in Thunder Bay (here's how sick I was: I barely remember any of that trip except Friday's winning goal and Saturday's game), UMD is on the road four out of five weekends in January. After next week's home dates with Western Michigan, the Bulldogs hit the road for the North Star College Cup, followed by a series in Denver.
That might not be a terrible thing. UMD is improved at home (5-3 this season) without question, but if you track back one year to the start of the second half of last season, you'll find that UMD is 14-5-1 in its last 20 games away from Amsoil Arena. This group relishes playing on the road. And if I've learned anything in a decade behind the mic, it's that guys seem to get a little fired up for a chance to quiet down a big house like this.
Programming note: I'll be back with the usual Saturday ramble-fest after the game. I also plan to publish my fictional votes for NCHC awards at the halfway point of the season on Saturday. That's always a good way to get yelled at by some league fanbase. Wonder if it'll be your turn this year.
Also, I'll be on "Beyond The Pond" with Brandon Mileski, Pat Micheletti, and Nate Miller Saturday at 10:35. The show airs on KFAN radio in the Twin Cities, The Fan 1490 in the Twin Ports, and all along the Fan Radio Network and at kfan.com.
Iafallo - Toninato - Krause
Farley - Cameranesi - Kuhlman
Osterberg - Decowski - Crandall
Young (Blake) - Thomas - Young (Austyn)
Johnson - Welinski
Soucy - Raskob
Corrin - Kotyk
Kaskisuo - McNeely
O'Donnell - MacMillan - Parks
Chyzyk - Caggiula - Schmaltz (Nick)
Pattyn - Johnson (Luke) - Poganski
Simonson - Gaarder - Murphy
Mattson - LaDue
Ausmus - Schmaltz (Jordan)
Thompson - Poolman
McIntyre - Johnson (Cam) - Hrynkiw