Saturday night’s game against the United States Under-18 team might be listed as an exhibition for North Dakota, but for junior Mark MacMillan it means a lot more.
As part of the North Dakota Strong campaign, which is raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research during the month of October, the team will be wearing pink jerseys during the game. The jerseys are being auctioned with all of the proceeds benefiting the North Dakota Strong campaign.
“While North Dakota has done the campaign for a while, we actually did it with my junior team [Penticton Vees of BCHL], as well,” MacMillan said. “It’s just a great way to raise awareness and money for breast cancer. This cause is very personal to me because my grandmother died just before I was born of breast cancer and two of my aunts had the disease, but thankfully they were able to beat it.”
In fact, MacMillan, who was a Western Collegiate Hockey Association Scholar-Athlete a season ago as an Entrepreneurship major, has taken the lead among the team in promoting the campaign.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring awareness to the disease to college hockey fans and also raise some needed funds,” MacMillan said. “People everywhere are affected by the disease, just about everyone knows someone who has had it, so anytime you have a chance to do something like this it’s special.”
His head coach, Dave Hakstol, couldn’t be prouder of the impact MacMillan and the rest of the team have had in the community.
"Mark and his teammates have done a nice job in creating this event which will support the effort to find a cure for breast cancer,” Hakstol said. “Our players understand the opportunity they have to make a positive impact on our community and place value on being involved with organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and Altru Health Systems breast cancer research."
On the ice, MacMillan, a 2010 fourth-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, has been just as productive. In just two-plus seasons, the he has already posted 50 points (21 goals and 29 assists) in just 88 games. This season he has helped lead North Dakota to a 2-1-1 record and a No. 6 national ranking.
“I think things have gone pretty well so far, we were able to take three of four points from Vermont and then split at Miami [Ohio], who was ranked No. 1 last week,” MacMillan said. “We need to continue to find our identity as a team. We have a lot of young guys who are still trying to identify their roles on the team. We need to make sure everyone is working on what they need to do individually so we can grow as a team and that will give us a chance to win every night.”
For MacMillan and his teammates, they are hoping the team continues to progress to be able to meet its goals.
“Every year the goal at North Dakota is to win a national championship,” MacMillan said. “That comes with the tradition here. Obviously, we know it takes a lot of hard work, but we have some great leaders on this team. Everyone who plays here has a lot of pride in what they are doing and want to keep the winning tradition going. Obviously with this being the first year of the NCHC [National Collegiate Hockey Conference] it would also be special to be the first team to win the conference championship.”
The feat would be made even more special with the fact that his brother, Mitch, is a senior on the team after transferring from St. Cloud State two years ago.
“It’s pretty cool because we had never played together before except for one year of juniors,” MacMillan said. “It’s also great for my parents because now they don’t have to drive two separate places to watch us play.”
An entire list of activities surrounding the North Dakota Strong campaign, including the jersey auction, can be found here.
Crossing the blue line
• The marquee matchup of this weekend features Minnesota and Boston College. Minnesota holds the slight overall advantage, 15-12-2. This historic series commenced in the national semifinal on March 11, 1954, where Minnesota skated away with a 14-1 victory, triggering an unblemished mark of 7-0-0 against BC. The Eagles finally broke the streak on March 23, 1985, in the NCAA tournament and are 6-1-3 in the past 10 meetings. These two clubs have met 10 times in the postseason. BC has won six, but each team has scored 36 goals, displaying the parity between the two. The Eagles have a bad taste in their mouths the last time they took on the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. Just after head coach Jerry York captured his record-breaking 925th career victory last year in the semifinal matchup of the Mariucci Tournament, Minnesota deflated BC with an 8-1 beating the next night.
• The Big Ten–Hockey East challenge, which started last weekend, has seen Hockey East pull out to an early lead. The challenge takes place during the course of 13 games from Oct. 18-27. The conference that records the most points from the 13 games will be declared the winner. Points are awarded as follows: two points for a win, one point for a tie and a bonus point for a road win. Hockey East leads the Big Ten heading into this weekend, 9-4. In addition to the Boston College and Minnesota series, the other games in the challenge include Boston University at Michigan and Michigan State, Massachusetts-Lowell at Michigan State and Michigan and Vermont against Penn State at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
• There are three teams that are perfect on the penalty kill this season led by Providence, who has not allowed a goal in the 19 times it found itself down a man. St. Cloud State is perfect in its six penalty killing opportunities, while Army hasn’t allowed a goal in its three shorthanded situations. On the other end, Michigan leads the nation with six goals in 16 chances on the power play for 37.5 percent, while Massachusetts and Northeastern are tied for second at 32 percent with eight goals on 32 opportunities.
Minding the net
Clarkson and Colorado College meet this weekend with Colorado College holding a 11-0-3 edge in the series. … Alaska Fairbank’s Cody Kunyk is just 10 points away from reaching the century mark for his career. … Notre Dame is 11-1-2 in its past 14 games. … Northeastern is 4-0 for the first time since the 2003-04 season. … In the past five years, RIT is 10-2-20 in overtime. … With his next point, Nebraska-Omaha’s Ryan Walters will break into the school’s top 10 all-time points list with 107. … Quinnipiac has followed up last year’s national championship game appearance with a 4-1 start heading into a weekend series with Holy Cross. … Jason Torf of Air Force is closing in on sixth place on the school’s all-time saves chart as he has stopped 2,305 shots in his career. … Rensselaer has outscored its opponents 7-1 in the first period. … Sacred Heart has allowed 13 goals in its two losses but only two goals in its two wins.