UND will take on Canisius College at 6:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 4 and 5, in the HarborCenter in Buffalo, N.Y.
The closest UND has come to playing a road game at one of the 11 Atlantic Hockey schools came in 2002, when UND played in a tournament in Buffalo. It opened that tournament against Canisius. That game was not played in Canisius’ home rink, though. It was played in the Sabres’ arena, KeyBank Center, and was classified a neutral-site game.
UND also played a neutral-site game against Army in St. Paul in 1966, a neutral-site game against Holy Cross in the 2004 NCAA tournament (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and three neutral-site games against Niagara — the 2000 NCAA tournament (in Minneapolis), the 2013 NCAA tournament (in Grand Rapids, Mich.) and the 2010 Shillelagh Tournament (in Hoffman Estates, Ill.).
The other 18 games against Atlantic Hockey opponents have come in Grand Forks. UND is 24-0 all-time against current Atlantic Hockey teams.
To get familiar with Canisius and this weekend’s series, here are 10 things to know.
Canisius plays in one of college hockey’s newest arenas — HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo. The arena, in its fifth season, seats 1,800 fans.
The only college hockey arenas newer than HarborCenter are Omaha’s Baxter Arena (2015), Colgate’s Class of 1965 Arena (2016) and Bentley Arena (2018).
HarborCenter is the practice arena of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and is connected to the Sabres’ home, KeyBank Center.
The facility was developed by Sabres and Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula, the benefactors who started the Penn State University men’s and women’s hockey programs.
The Atlantic Hockey tournament is being moved from Rochester to HarborCenter beginning this season.
One of the most unique twists to the arena is that it’s on the sixth and seventh floors of the complex.
The first five stories are parking. The ice itself is on the sixth floor and the arena concourse is on the seventh floor. The Marriott HarborCenter hotel is above the rink.
The idea of putting the arena above a parking ramp came from the Washington Capitals’ practice facility, the MedStar Capitals Iceplex. HarborCenter took one big suggestion from the Capitals when building it: Make the elevators large enough to transport a Zamboni.
The intimate 1,800-seat venue is one of the smallest arenas in college hockey and one of the smallest venues that UND has ever played in.
Only four of 60 college hockey teams play in smaller venues: Robert Morris (1,589), Mercyhurst (1,500), Holy Cross (1,400) and Arizona State (500).
By comparison, the now-defunct John S. Glas Fieldhouse in Bemidji, Frank Messa Rink at Union and Bill Copeland Sports Centre in Burnaby, B.C., where UND played exhibitions in 2014, all seat at least 2,000.
At this time last year, HarborCenter and the Sabres’ game rink of KeyBank Center were being used to host the World Junior Championship.
While all of the United States and Canada games were held in KeyBank Center (except their head-to-head matchup was played outdoors at New Era Field), HarborCenter was the secondary site. It hosted eight games, including the Sweden-Slovakia quarterfinal.
The last time UND played in Buffalo was October 2002, when it played in the Xerox Punch Imlach College Hockey Showcase in KeyBank Center.
A young freshman named Zach Parise made his college debut there.
Parise had three goals and four points in his first collegiate game, an 8-0 win over Canisius. Parise was the first UND player to have a hat trick in his college debut since at least 1988.
The next day, UND beat Michigan 5-4 in overtime to win the showcase. Parise also had four points in that game. He started his career with eight points in two games in Buffalo.
UND will have to contend with one of college hockey’s most prolific scorers, Canisius senior forward Dylan McLaughlin.
Only two players in all of college hockey have more career points than McLaughlin’s 129. That’s Ohio State’s Mason Jobst (144) and Princeton’s Ryan Kuffner (131).
McLaughlin is on pace to lead Canisius in scoring for a third straight season. He has 22 points in 16 games for the Golden Griffins. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound center from Lancaster, N.Y., is coming off of a 48-point junior season.
Looking to bolster its goaltending group, which ranks 59th nationally in team save percentage at .875, Canisius added a goaltender at semester time.
Matt Ladd joined the team from the New Jersey Junior Titans of the North American Hockey League. Ladd had a .922 save percentage for the Titans during the first half of the season.
He made his college debut Saturday against Union. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound netminder stopped 32 of 36 shots in a 5-2 road loss to the Dutchmen.
The addition of Ladd doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the go-to guy.
Canisius’ other goalie, junior Blake Weyrick, made a terrific start last Friday against Union.
Weyrick, who is from Los Angeles, stopped 42 of 44 shots in a 2-2 tie with Union.
Weyrick is used to playing with big-time players. He spent two years with the U.S. Under-17 Team and U.S. Under-18 Team, where he was teammates with another guy who currently resides in Buffalo — Sabres captain Jack Eichel.
Weyrick also played with former UND forward Shane Gersich with the U.S. team.
Canisius is getting a big boost from Miami transfer Austin Alger, who played in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference for the RedHawks last season and was granted a waiver to become eligible to play immediately this season for Canisius.
Alger, a right winger on McLaughlin’s line, enters this weekend on an eight-game point streak. He has seven goals in that span and has scored a goal in four straight.
Last weekend, Alger scored three of the Golden Griffins’ five goals against Union.
Spots on the front page of the local newspaper, the Buffalo News, can be hard to come by with the Bills and Sabres dominating the town.
Buffalo also has a MAC school in the city, the University of Buffalo, and the Triple-A minor league baseball affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Buffalo Bisons.
But Canisius hockey did land on the front page of the sports section this year when news broke that UND was traveling to play a two-game series at HarborCenter.