UND goalie Zach Driscoll returns to his old home in Bemidji
The fifth-year senior netminder spent three years playing for the Beavers.
Zach Driscoll has spent enough time in Bemidji to know just about every spot in town.
He'll tell you that Tara, a Thai restaurant, is the go-to for dining. If you're looking for a place near the Sanford Center, the best bet is Green Mill. His dessert tradition? Cherry Berry.
But after living in Bemidji for three years, he's about to go one place he's never been: the visiting locker room at the Sanford Center.
Driscoll, who starred as a goaltender for Bemidji State for three seasons, will return this weekend as the starting goaltender at UND. The Fighting Hawks will play the Beavers at 7:07 p.m. Friday in the Sanford Center before returning to Grand Forks for the series finale at 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
"I've never been on the visiting side of that rink," said Driscoll, who transferred to UND this summer for his final year of college eligibility. "That will definitely be weird. I'm very familiar with the ins and the outs of the whole building, but being on the other side will be a little strange."
Driscoll has been a fixture at Bemidji State in recent years, posting a .924 save percentage for the Beavers, earning two all-Western Collegiate Hockey Association honors and leading Bemidji State within a game of the Frozen Four last season.
He's been especially good in the Sanford Center, posting a .929 save percentage and a 22-8-2 record the past two years.
"I think he looks at it as another opposition, another opponent, without peeling back the layers and trying to create more than it is," UND coach Brad Berry said. "I think it's just his maturity of him being in college hockey for a few years and just knowing that, 'Hey, I've got to do my job and go out there against a team I've been a part of the last few years.'"
Perhaps some of the awkwardness is gone now that UND and Bemidji State played in an exhibition game Oct. 2. Driscoll played the entire game for the Fighting Hawks, who won 2-1 in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"I'm glad we got that out of the way, to be honest with you," Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. "I'm sure Brad feels the same way from their end. It looked weird right away. I'll be honest with you, I didn't know he was playing the second period. I just thought he was going to play the first. Then probably like two or three shifts into the second, he was still playing. That's how little I was paying attention, because you're so focused and dialed in with other things as a coach right there."
After the game, some Beaver players had long embraces with Driscoll in the handshake line.
"It was different, obviously, playing with Zach and then having to go against him," Bemidji State senior Ross Armour said. "It's different, but obviously, we're here to win, so we're just going to go into this weekend and do our best."
UND players say Driscoll's return to Bemidji hasn't been mentioned much this week.
"We don't really focus on that aspect of the game," Fighting Hawks forward Louis Jamernik said. "I know Zach's been a part of our group for three months. He's part of our family now. We haven't really brought it up. But I'm sure he's probably going to have some emotions and he'll have his own thing, but we'll be there to back him up."
Driscoll has been excellent in his limited body of work with UND. He stopped 36 of 38 shots last weekend in the regular-season opening series against Niagara.
"Very competitive, very in control," Berry said. "Some of the chances we gave up over the last couple of weeks, he had to make key saves at key times early in games. His focus and determination is at a high level. The games are going to get exponentially tougher here starting this weekend."
That will especially be the case Friday night as he heads back into his former home.
"At the end of the day," Driscoll said, "it's just another hockey game we're trying to win."
UND vs. Bemidji State
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Bemidji's Sanford Center on Friday; Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday.
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD) on Saturday only.
Webcast: flohockey.tv on Friday, NCHC.tv on Saturday.
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).