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Nicklin sets standard for UMD seniors' last game distractions

Distractions, distractions, distractions. As if the UMD hockey team didn't have enough to challenge its concentration by facing Minnesota State-Mankato in this weekend's final home series of the season, there is the uncertainty of the upcoming WC...

Distractions, distractions, distractions. As if the UMD hockey team didn't have enough to challenge its concentration by facing Minnesota State-Mankato in this weekend's final home series of the season, there is the uncertainty of the upcoming WCHA playoffs, and the added diversion of coach Mike Sertich having announced he is resigning at the end of the season.
That adds specifically to the thought processes of captain Jeff Scissons and junior defenseman Ryan Coole, who were named to the search committee to evaluate candidates to replace Sertich. Others on the committee are athletic director Bob Corran, women's hockey coach Shannon Miller and former UMD star Walt Ledingham.
The amazing irony of the final regular-season series is that Minnesota State-Mankato coach Don Brose -- who guided the Mavericks since the days they were Indians, up through Division II to Division I and now into their first season in the WCHA -- has announced his retirement at the end of this season. So that lean and hungry look among some of the spectators at the DECC this weekend may belong to that segment of the fans who are coaching candidates at either or both of the two Minnesota colleges.
Meanwhile, back on the DECC rink...
Brant Nicklin is preparing to play his last game at the DECC, and he feels a kinship of sorts with Sertich because of his soon-to-come departure as one of the team's seniors, along with Scissons, Colin Anderson, Shawn Pogreba, Richie Anderson and Ryan Nosan.
But Nicklin has one added distraction, above and beyond all the distractions. He is a new dad. His fiancee, Kelly Podgorak, gave birth last Sunday to a daughter, Reese, who weighs 6 pounds, 7 ounces -- statistics that are far more meaningful to Nicklin than goals-against or save-percentage right now.
"I observed the whole thing," said Nicklin. "It was really neat ... Not exactly what I had anticipated. We're starting to get into a routine. She sleeps pretty well through the night."
So losing sleep hasn't been a distraction, and Nicklin has moved past the anxiety of anticipating the childbirth, which includes a false alarm that caused him to miss the Denver trip two weeks ago.
"I feel good, and I'm ready to go," Nicklin said. "After all that's happened, I think there will be some feeling about winning for Sertie's sake. But for those of us who are seniors, these also are our last games here, which gives us more urgency to go out a winner.
"After playing here for four years, it means a lot to me to know this will be the last time I play in this rink. There's nothing I want more than a 'W' in my last home game."
The Bulldogs go into the weekend in eighth place, with no chance of moving up, but with the possibility of dropping to ninth if they lose twice to Mankato, while ninth-place Denver -- three points behind UMD -- sweeps last-place Michigan Tech. Nobody wants to be 10th, which must play at first-place Wisconsin next weekend in the opening round of WCHA playoffs, or ninth, which would send a team to Grand Forks to play second-place North Dakota.
Third place, which is the site where the eighth-place team will play the best-of-three, was up for grabs going into the weekend, and the scramble included UMD foe Mankato and St. Cloud State, both tied at 31 points, and Colorado College at 29 points but playing at Wisconsin this weekend, and Minnesota at 28 points playing home-and-home with St. Cloud State.
If UMD winds up eighth, the Bulldogs will play at one of those teams, so the outcomes against Mankato could well determine whether the 'Dogs go right back to Mankato, or to St. Cloud, the most likely scenarios.
"We know how well we can play, and that anything can happen in the playoffs," said Nicklin. "It doesn't really matter who we play or where, we know we're going to have to beat any of those teams to keep our season going, and hopefully go on to the Final Five and beat somebody else."
For the outgoing seniors -- Nicklin, Scissons, Colin Anderson, Richie Anderson, and Nosan -- none of the distractions, and nothing else, matters so much as extending their college playing days, one at a time.

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