UND practicing with a "huge edge" this week ahead of series with Western Michigan

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) -- After a somewhat disappointing weekend against Union in non-conference action the Fighting Hawks hockey team steps back into NCHC play when the points leaders in the conference, Western Michigan, come to the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The Fighting Hawks suffered a loss last Friday against Union before earning a tie Saturday in the series finale.

UND sophomore forward Cole Smith said previous meetings with teams from the East Coast are filled with speed and skill. However, Union came in with a different approach against the Fighting Hawks last weekend.

"I think Union came in here with the mindset to play hard on us," Smith said. "So they didn't quite play the typical 'out East game' so we kind of got used to that. But in conference (play) we know Western (Michigan). They're always hard to play against."

"We're going to have to get prepared for that and we're going to have to bring it to them too."

Sophomore defenseman Colton Poolman said in order for the Fighting Hawks to pick up wins this weekend it will come from the ability to control the middle of the ice.

"I think that's the key. That's how we've got to practice this week is hard and heavy between the dots. You know boxing out and on the other side try to get to the net because you know they have big d-men trying to box guys out."

Head Coach Brad Berry is expecting the same physical style from Western Michigan his teams have faced in the past.

"They've lost players, we've lost players, but they haven't dropped the bar on how they play. We're expecting a big team coming in here that's going to try and play fast. We've got to make sure that we're ready on Friday night for that."

Berry also said there is a huge edge in practice this week. Adding this week is very important because this will be the last time they're at home in the first half of the season.

"Our players and our staff hate to disappoint--especially at home," Berry said. "Everything is results oriented but you've got to stay with the process that gives you those results."

No. 6 North Dakota (8-4-4, 3-2-1-1 NCHC) hosts No. 10 Western Michigan (9-5-1, 5-1-0 NCHC) this weekend at the Ralph Engelstad Arena Friday (7:37 p.m.) and Saturday (7:07 p.m.).