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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service , Published January 31 2013

Gleason feels sense of urgency for UND men's hockey team

GRAND FORKS – Joe Gleason says it’s not just going to happen.

Sure, the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team has made it a habit of going on second-half runs under ninth-year coach Dave Hakstol.

UND has a .746 winning percentage (87-26-11) from February to the end of the season under Hakstol, and an .822 winning percentage (36-7-2) in the three years Gleason has been part of the team.

Today the calendar flips to February, but Gleason warns that nothing is automatic, especially for a team that enters this weekend’s series against Wisconsin on a five-game winless streak – its longest of the Hakstol era.

“In the win column, we haven’t (been progressing),” Gleason said. “I think until we come to the realization of that and be real honest, it’s not just going to happen. I know our Sioux teams have had second-half runs ever since I’ve been here and even before that. But we need to consistently be better on both nights. It’s the perfect time to start doing that right now. We don’t have too much of a second half left.”

The final Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season series between UND and Wisconsin before the longtime foes split into different leagues next season will be a key one. The teams are tied for fourth place in league play with identical 8-5-5 marks.

“These are the kind of weekends that are fun,” Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said. “It’s a great place to play. If I’m a college athlete or just an athlete in general, you’re playing in front of 11,000 fans, and the rink is designed such they’re right on top of you. They’re a good team. There’s a great rivalry.”

While UND enters with an 0-3-2 mark in the last five games, the Badgers are arguably the hottest team in the WCHA. Wisconsin started the season 1-7-2, but is 10-1-3 since then. The Badgers are unbeaten in the last 10 league games (10-0-3).

“They are one of the teams, every year, that you kind of measure yourself up against,” Gleason said. “It’s a pretty good, telling story of where your team is at. They are a good team to play in terms of that.”

During its winning streak, Wisconsin has played a lot of one-goal games. Throwing out empty-net goals, seven of Wisconsin’s last eight games have been one-goal games. The Badgers are 7-1 in that span.

The Badgers (11-8-5 overall) have the WCHA’s top defense, allowing just 2.17 goals per league game. Sophomore goaltenders Joel Rumpel (1.85 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) and Landon Peterson (1.83, .934) have both been outstanding.

UND, which sits in 10th in the Pairwise Rankings, is looking to get back on track while playing a difficult schedule. Eight of UND’s final 10 regular-season games will be against ranked opponents.

“I’m not worried about the standings or anything else,” Hakstol said. “I’m worried about our play. I’m worried about the process we’re going through as a team and some of the challenges we’re going through right now, and most importantly, how we are embracing those challenges. If you worry about the process and worry about the work at hand, everything else takes care of itself.”

Colten St. Clair said it’s time for the team to be more consistent.

“Everyone needs to take a deep breath, to be honest,” St. Clair said. “We all know what we’ve got to do. We just have to consistently do it. We have to be ready for practice every day and ready for the drop of the puck when we play games. I think you’ll see that this weekend.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald