Brad Berry will be making his head-coaching debut at one of college hockey’s most storied programs in Portland.

After nine years in two separate stints as an assistant, Berry will be at the helm when North Dakota takes on Lake Superior State in the opening game of the Ice Breaker tournament at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Cross Insurance Arena.

He certainly wasn’t overflowing with emotion when asked about the promotion Thursday.

“It’s very exciting,” Berry said. “Being there for nine years, knowing what it entails through guys like Dean Blais and Dave Hakstol that did a great job there. (I) know how the process goes, know our culture, know about our players and program here, and just happy and honored to be a part of it.”

Hakstol led North Dakota to six Frozen Fours in 11 years, including the past two, before making a surprise leap to coach the Philadelphia Flyers this offseason.

Berry inherits a team featuring 12 NHL draft picks on a roster that earned a preseason No. 4 national ranking. No other team in the Ice Breaker field is ranked.

Junior defenseman Gage Ausmus, the team captain, said the change in coaches hasn’t signaled a significant difference.

“He’s easy to approach. He’ll give it to you straight and he’ll tell you his honest opinions on things,” Ausmus said of Berry, who was in charge of coaching defensemen. “(Hakstol and Berry are) pretty familiar with each other and I think they believe in the same philosophies, playing hard, playing the right way.”

Berry said the team planned to spend Thursday night watching Hakstol’s Flyers debut.

“We wish him the best of luck and he’ll do a great job there,” Berry said.

LAKE SUPERIOR State is the “other” team in the Ice Breaker field, the only one Maine won’t play. The Lakers, winners of the 1988, ’92 and ’94 national championships, will be in the 4:30 p.m. game Friday and Saturday.

The Saturday game against Michigan State holds special significance for second-year coach Damon Whitten, a left winger for the Spartans, graduating in 2001. He played for the legendary Ron Mason, who will be on hand this weekend watching his grandson, Travis Walsh, play for Michigan State.

“You want to win every game, but when it’s a program that means that much to you, there’s a little bit more on the line. I love the place. It’s a great place but it probably puts a little more fire,” Whitten said of coaching against his alma mater. “The puck drops, it’s just another game. You’re trying to put your players in situations to be successful.”

Lake Superior State is coming off an 8-28-2 season. Whitten said he’ll follow the lead of his former coach and not organize opportunities for his players to be tourists this weekend.

“Coach Mason wasn’t a big sightseer or ‘take the experience in.’ We’re on a business trip,” Whitten said.

MICHIGAN STATE was the last team to arrive Thursday, practicing at home before jetting to Portland, landing at 4:11 p.m. The Spartans passed on the chance to practice at the CIA.

“We’re just getting in,” Coach Tom Anastos said. “A few bags didn’t make it so we’re trying to catch our dinner.”


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