Gophers and North Dakota ready for round two

The Gophers swept North Dakota back in early November. Both teams have changed quite a bit since then. UND is now one of the hottest teams in the country while Minnesota has fallen off a little bit. Round two of this interstate rivalry should be fantastic.

It's round two of the Gophers and North Dakota as they meet in Grand Forks for a two-game series Friday and Saturday night. Minnesota swept the team without a nickname in early November at Mariucci Arena. As of January 1, the "Fighting Sioux" nickname was laid to rest.

Times have changed since the 9-1 Gophers sent the Sioux back to Ralph Engelstad Arena with a 3-6-1 record. UND has morphed into one of the hottest teams in the country while the Gophers have lost two in a row.

Despite being an unofficial underdog, the fifth ranked Gophers remain tied with Minnesota-Duluth at the top of the WCHA standings. The Bulldogs have the longest unbeaten streak in the country going into this weekend's series at Nebraska-Omaha.

If UMD stays hot, it's imperative the Gophers keep pace by winning at North Dakota. To do so, they'll have to receive more offensive firepower from their second line. That means Sam Warning, Erik Haula and Jake Hansen need to find the scoring touch they displayed in the early part of the season.

The importance of this series shouldn't be underestimated. Although it's still relatively early in the season, head coach Don Lucia doesn't want to start the second half of the WCHA schedule with a couple of losses.

Whatever happens, win or lose, we know one thing is certain. A fight or two will probably break out between these to rivals. Remember this end-of-regulation fight between the two?

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Gophers ready for red-hot North Dakota

Don Lucia knows North Dakota has improved since being swept at Mariucci Arena in early November. UND has since regained its scoring touch en route to an 8-2-1 record since playing the Gophers.

Haula returning to Gophers next year

Erik Haula will return to the Gophers for his junior season, according to head coach Don Lucia. Haula led Minnesota in scoring last season. Kyle Rau and Nate Schmidt will also return next season. Lucia says "if everybody comes back, we should be be a very good team next year."