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T.J. Oshie and Taylor Chorney use day off in Winnipeg to visit alma mater North Dakota

T.J. Oshie stick-handles the puck from his knees against Pittsburgh last month. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

When Taylor Chorney mentioned to T.J. Oshie that the Washington Capitals would have an off day in Winnipeg, Oshie knew where the rest of the conversation was headed. Chorney suggested a quick trip to the University of North Dakota, where they played college hockey together.

“I was all for it,” Oshie said. “It was literally the shortest conversation. He asked if I would want to go to North Dakota. I said, ‘Yes. Done.'”

Chorney and Oshie rented a car in Winnipeg and listened to podcasts while one drove the two-and-a-half hours to Grand Forks and the other one driving back. When they arrived, they saw the school’s hockey facility for the first time since it had been remodeled and then spoke to the Fighting Hawks about the significance of playing Minnesota, as no current member of the roster had played in the rivalry. The Gophers and North Dakota play each other Friday and Saturday night for the first time since the 2014 Frozen Four. The schools were longtime rivals in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, but fled for separate conferences in 2013.

Oshie and Chorney were part of the only North Dakota team to sweep Minnesota at Mariucci Arena since 1980, and the two teams played 12 times when Oshie and Chorney were on the team.

“I honestly didn’t even know before I got there that they were playing the Gophers this week,” Chorney said. “It still amazes me that there isn’t anybody on their roster that’s even played the Gophers before. When me and Osh were there, that was like — I mean, that was the reason I went to North Dakota was to beat the Gophers. That’s all we cared about. It’s nice for those kids to be able to get a chance to get a taste of that rivalry.”

Chorney said it was his first trip back to the campus in four or five years, and sitting around Winnipeg for an entire day didn’t seem as appealing.

What was the advice Chorney and Oshie gave to the team about playing Minnesota?

“It’s a big week,” Oshie said. “They’ve never played them before. Chorns and I played them at least two series a year, and then saw them in the regional tournament I think once. Just told them to enjoy it. There’s a lot of history there and that all of the alumni will be watching, but to not really get nervous about the game but to embrace it and have fun and to enjoy the moment.”

Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt is a Minnesota alum, and Oshie said he and Chorney “already got something on the line” in a bet with Schmidt with the rivalry being reignited this weekend.

“There’s been some back-and-forth with that, all friendly and nothing too crazy,” Chorney said. “But we’re both excited because it hasn’t happened in a while.”

“For it to be on the week they’re playing the Gophers, it was pretty cool to talk to the guys,” Oshie said. “It almost inspires you a little bit just because of how good our time was there and our experience. It almost inspires you to come out here and work a little harder.”