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By Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published March 14 2012

UND needs a win to help get an Men's NCAA hockey tournament bid

ST. PAUL – Only one team has had a chance to check out the Broadmoor Trophy since it was redesigned after the 2009 season.

The hardware, in the shape of the famous Colorado Springs hotel, has found a home at UND and Ralph Engelstad Arena for the past 24 months.

The Sioux are back-to-back Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s playoff champions. They’ve won 10 straight league playoff games – tying the longest streak in the last 17 years. And while they won’t be the favorites when the WCHA Final Five begins today, they expect to have targets on their backs.

“I think whenever someone is the defending champ of anything, whether it’s league play or the playoff championship, you have a little extra on the line,” junior Joe Gleason said. “I think that most teams always give us their hardest game. That’s just the style of game we play, and teams play against us.”

The Sioux, who take on St. Cloud State in a quarterfinal game at 7:07 tonight in the Xcel Energy Center, have mastered the month of March in recent years.

Since 2010, they are 19-2 in March.

Junior goaltender Aaron Dell is 7-1 with a 1.07 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage during his eight career March starts. Senior goalie Brad Eidsness is 10-2 with a 1.76 GAA and a .929 save percentage in March during his career.

“It’s always an exciting tournament,” said Eidsness, who has been splitting starts with Dell. “It’s a great celebration of college hockey and the strengths of our game.

“We just have to continue playing the way we’ve been playing. We have to play to our strengths. St. Cloud is playing really well over there. I don’t think we’re going to change too many things up. We’re pretty much where we’re at.”

Although UND (22-12-3) has had plenty of success in March and at the Final Five, the team won’t be taking that into consideration this weekend.

“We don’t look past anything and we don’t look in the past,” Sioux defenseman Gleason said. “That was an unbelievable thing to do for my freshman and sophomore years – to win that tournament – but every year is a new year. You can’t look at that at all. It’s not a factor at all.”

There’s plenty of added incentive for UND this weekend. The Sioux want to strengthen their case to make the NCAA tournament.

UND currently sits at No. 11 in the Pairwise Rankings. If the Sioux lose to the Huskies, there’s still a 63 percent chance that they finish there, which would secure an NCAA bid, according to Jim Dahl of SiouxSports.com – an expert on the rankings.

But a loss would force the Sioux to sit back and hope there aren’t upset winners in other conference tournaments, which award automatic bids to the NCAA tournament to playoff champions.

“Right now, everything is on the line,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We’ve got to keep winning in order to get into the tournament. This is a real important night for us. I believe a win (tonight) may not completely get us there, but would go a long way to securing a national tournament berth. It also would give us a chance to play again Friday in the Xcel Energy Center.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald