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UND's home and road splits evident on defensive end

Feb. 19—GRAND FORKS — UND hasn't played a home game in almost a month.

Since sweeping Denver in late January, the Fighting Hawks had road trips to Oxford, Ohio, and Colorado Springs, Colo., with a bye week sandwiched in between.

They'll finally get back to Ralph Engelstad Arena for the next four games. UND hosts Minnesota Duluth at 7:07 p.m. Friday and 6:07 p.m. Saturday. Then, Western Michigan comes to town the following weekend.

The home games are much needed for UND.

After allowing 13 goals in a pair of losses to Colorado College last weekend, the Fighting Hawks could use a few games in a building where they've been a much better defensive team than on the road.

At home, UND is allowing 2.22 goals per game.

On the road, the Fighting Hawks are allowing 3.42.

At home, UND is giving up 23.3 shots on goal per game.

On the road, the Fighting Hawks are allowing 29.9.

Opponents have reached the 30 shots-on-goal mark in just two of 18 games in The Ralph this season — and zero of the last 13. The last team to hit that mark in Grand Forks was Minnesota State-Mankato on Oct. 27. The Mavericks had exactly 30 shots in a 6-2 UND win.

But on the road, the Fighting Hawks have allowed 30-plus shots in six-straight and in nine of 12 games this season.

Eight of the nine highest opponent shot totals this season have come on the road.

"We have a few things to work on," UND defenseman Garrett Pyke said. "But we're going to keep on growing."

UND enters the final three weeks of the season with a one-point lead on St. Cloud State atop the National Collegiate Hockey Conference standings. The Fighting Hawks are four points ahead of third-place Colorado College and six ahead of fourth-place Denver.

UND is trying to win the Penrose Cup for the fourth time in the last five seasons and the sixth time in 11 years of the NCHC.

"It's a tight race for the Penrose right now," UND coach Brad Berry said Saturday night in Ed Robson Arena. "Six games remaining. I think everybody's got the same amount of games left. We've got four at home and two on the road. So, we've got to go back home, and the next two weekends are huge for us."

Late in the first period, UND defenseman Keaton Pehrson and Colorado College forward Noah Laba raced the length of the ice for a loose puck.

Pehrson got inside position on Laba as the two reached the end wall. Laba pushed Pehrson from behind into the boards, leaving the Fighting Hawks senior crumpled on the ice for a few minutes.

Referees Stephen Reneau and Sterling Egan called a five-minute major for boarding, but did not give Laba a game misconduct.

Berry argued with the officials after the call, believing Laba should be ejected.

It ended up being a key moment in the game.

Without a game misconduct, Laba was able to return after the five-minute penalty and center Colorado College's top line. He had a goal and an assist during the Tigers' 6-2 comeback victory.

Pehrson attempted to play a couple of shifts early in the second period, but couldn't manage the injury and missed the last 30 minutes of the game.

There was no immediate update on Pehrson's status after the game.

Because UND dressed an extra forward for the game, the Fighting Hawks played the rest of the contest with five defensemen. Jake Livanavage (23:56) and Pyke (23:09) carried the heaviest workloads.

UND forward Jackson Kunz missed the third period Friday due to an injury sustained blocking a shot.

He was a game-time decision Saturday.

UND dressed an extra skater for warmups, defenseman Nate Benoit, in case Kunz was unable to go.

Kunz got the call, but UND slid him to the fourth line to manage his minutes. Kunz still ended up playing 11:33, including 3:57 on the power play, where he's been a key player as the net-front man.

* According to InStat, expected goals for the series finale were Colorado College 4.4, UND 3.

* UND edged Colorado College in faceoffs 39-37. Jake Schmaltz led the way with a 14-10 mark. The Tigers are the NCAA's top faceoff team.

* UND defenseman Bennett Zmolek blocked five shots and is up to 68 on the season. That's, by far, the lead in the NCHC (second place is Pyke with 46). Zmolek is fifth nationally.

* Fighting Hawks senior goalie Ludvig Persson still has not beaten Colorado College in his career. He's now 0-8-2.