LAS VEGAS -- Road trips are all business for the University of North Dakota hockey team. But Brad Berry made an exception when the Fighting Hawks visited New York City two years ago.
He took the team to the 9-11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan -- a rare tourist stop for the program. And he let the players go out to Times Square to hang out and take pictures. UND, which had struggled to that point in the season, then answered the bell on the ice with one of its best performance of the year, beating Boston College 4-3 in Madison Square Garden.
UND is now in Las Vegas, about to play its first destination game since New York City, and Berry will use a similar philosophy this time around. He’s taking his team to the Vegas Golden Knights vs. Tampa Bay Lightning game on Friday afternoon before bringing the team to dinner and getting into the regular game-day routine Saturday, Oct. 27.
“We’re going to make sure our group stays tight,” Berry said. “We’re going to spend a lot of time together doing different things.
“We’re going to be spending a couple hours watching a couple periods of the Tampa-Golden Knights game. We’re getting out and spending a little bit of time. We’re going out for team meal that night -- the things we do on a road trip. But we’re there for business, and we want to make sure we drill down on that.”
UND sophomore forward Grant Mismash, who made several destination trips while on the U.S. Under-17 and Under-18 teams, agreed with that philosophy.
“It will be a fun weekend,” Mismash said. “We’ll go there, relax and just kind of take it all in. Friday, we’ll have a good day, relax a little more. Then, Friday night it will become business time. Then, Saturday’s the day.
“I think it’s always good when you go on trips like this to have fun right away, then get into business mode. It’s good to have fun. It’s not always business the whole trip. We’re going there for hockey, but it’s good to get out and get in a warm area and see Vegas.”
University of Minnesota first-year coach Bob Motzko plans to do the same with the Gophers.
“We have to be the team that enjoys our trip and knows that it’s business,” Motzko said. “We’re not going to shelter them when we’re there. We’re going to a Knights game, and we’re going to let them see a couple of things and then it’s game time. We have real strong leadership with our older kids. They’ll get a lid on the guys.”
Both Berry and Motzko are believers in playing destination games like this one.
Although the Vegas game was signed when Don Lucia was still the head coach of the Gophers, Motzko praised the decision.
“I think they’re great,” he said. “Especially like last year, I know Minnesota played in New York City. We can venture out and showcase college hockey in new markets, especially with what happened in Vegas last year with the Knights and the craziness there. It’s great.”
Berry has already started working on UND’s next showcase game, which is likely to be in 2020 in Nashville against Penn State.
“I think it’s a great thing we’re doing here as far as adding to the student-athlete experience,” Berry said. “The exposure for our program, going into a so-called neutral site, seeing people from around the country come to that place, that destination, it’s awesome. It happened in New York City with 8,000-plus and it’s going to happen in Vegas here. So that’s a great thing.”
And both teams will enjoy the city before getting to business.
“I think it’s really fun,” Minnesota forward Tommy Novak said. “New York City was really fun for us, walking around Times Square. I’ve never been to Vegas, so it will be fun to see the city and stuff. It’s cool for college games to be played in areas that aren’t usually hosting games. It’s good for the game and really fun for both teams.”
Who: UND vs. Minnesota.
When: 9:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas.
TV/radio: Midco Sports Network; 96.1 FM
Of note: This is the seventh state in which UND and Minnesota have played against each other (North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Nevada).