UND preparing to face a different-looking Miami team

Mar. 13—GRAND FORKS — Miami will look a bit different this weekend than last time UND saw the RedHawks.

Miami's top line will feature Matthew Barbolini and Raimonds Vitolins.

When the teams met in February the first-line forwards were among the handful of key players missing from the RedHawks' lineup.

Both have since returned.

Barbolini is Miami's leading scorer with 11 goals and 25 points in 29 games. The senior winger has tallied three-straight 10-goal, 20-point seasons for Miami.

Vitolins is Miami's fourth-leading scorer with 17 points in 26 games. The center is a transfer from Vermont.

"Obviously, they're very good players," UND coach Brad Berry said. "They add to their group offensively and experience-wise as well. Obviously, that's going to help them as well. For us, it's about not changing how we've had success, our identity, how we have to play and making sure that we take care of that side of it.

"We have to respect those players and know when they're on the ice, but for us, collectively as a group, it's about what gives us a chance to have success and playing to our identity."

Top-seeded UND and eighth-seeded Miami will play in a best-of-three National Collegiate Hockey Conference quarterfinal series at 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday, and, if necessary, 6:07 p.m. Sunday.

The winner will advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center on March 22-23.

When the teams met in February, the games were tight.

On Friday, UND pulled the goalie late in the third period and scored an extra-attacker goal before Jackson Blake won it 5-4 in overtime. On Saturday, the Fighting Hawks needed a 33-save performance from Ludvig Persson to gain a 4-1 win.

This time, it will be in Ralph Engelstad Arena, where UND has been excellent this season.

The Fighting Hawks (24-10-2) have won seven-straight home games, are 9-1 since Christmas and 17-4-1 on the season. Of UND's 22 home games this season, it has only lost in regulation once. That was to Minnesota in October.

One tool Berry likes to use at home is line matching.

Home teams get last line change. That means after whistles, the visiting team has to put its players on the ice first and the home team can counter. Berry often uses that to get favorable matchups.

"It definitely helps," Berry said. "At the end of the day, that's why you want to try to be a top seed or as high as you can in the standings — for this time of year to have that availability of doing that. It's given us success in this building over the course of the year. It is a factor going forward here and we'll adjust to it, for sure."

UND has already played Miami (7-24-3) four times this season, going 4-0.

Berry said there are some things you can learn from the earlier games and adjust.

"I think there are little things you can do with specialty teams, especially, and that side of it," Berry said. "They're going to be a huge part of it — power play and penalty kill. For the most part, it's sticking with what you do."

UND is coming off of a pair of losses last weekend against Omaha in Baxter Arena to close the regular season.

"Obviously, last weekend, we didn't get the results we wanted," UND forward Jackson Kunz said. "So, we're coming into the weekend with a new slate, a clean slate. It's playoff season for us. I think everyone is excited. We're just preparing like we know we can."

What did UND take from the Omaha series?

"No games are easy," Kunz said. "All year, it's been hard, every weekend. I think we earned our way to the No. 1 seed. That doesn't mean anything going into this weekend. It's still going to be a battle."

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday, and if necessary, 6:07 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.

TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).

Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).