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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published January 23 2014

Familiar faces set to square off

GRAND FORKS – It’s not a hockey game on Cottonwood Street anymore.

This weekend, University of North Dakota freshman Paul LaDue and Denver freshman Matt VanVoorhis will go head-to-head against each other in one of the top rivalries in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

LaDue, a consistent defenseman for UND, and VanVoorhis, a versatile Pioneers player at both wing and defense, have played together and against each other – going back a long way.

They were best friends growing up in Grand Forks and even played together on a mites team – the Grand Forks Blues. VanVoorhis also played on a team with UND freshman Luke Johnson.

“He moved away in sixth grade, but before then, we were very close,” LaDue said. “We lived on the same street and hung out every day.”

VanVoorhis moved to the Twin Cities when he was 11 years old and played high school in Edina, Minn. He then moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play for the U.S. National Team Development Program. After that, he spent two years in the United States Hockey League before arriving on campus in Denver.

LaDue played prep hockey for Grand Forks Central. He played his senior season in the North American Hockey League and two years after that in the USHL, where he played against VanVoorhis.

UND expects fans despite policy

This fall, Denver did not allow fans to purchase single-game tickets to the UND-Denver series.

Fans that wanted to grab tickets for this series had to either buy a group sum of 20 or purchase tickets for three other series – a policy directed to either keep UND fans out of Magness Arena or make them pay significantly to get in.

But players don’t seem to think it will stop the large contingency of UND fans from showing up at Magness Arena this weekend.

“It will take a lot more than that (ticket policy) to keep them out,” UND junior defenseman Nick Mattson said.

Colorado is one of UND’s top alumni bases, and fans wearing green and white typically flood the 7,200-seat venue when UND is in town. Last year, Denver captain Paul Phillips told U.S. College Hockey Online, “As crazy as it sounds, even though it’s a home game for us, it’s kind of like a home game for them. They bring so many fans with them and their fans are so loud. It’s real important that we can’t let their fans get into the game.”

UND has a pregame party planned for Saturday.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald