By Rob Everingham
"It's for all the marbles now," said Northern head coach Tim Walker of the impending start of Frontier Conference play.
The Lights will head to Billings this weekend to take on the Rocky Mountain Bears in Northern's conference opener.
The Bears have played in conference already, as they downed Montana Tech Monday night.
Walker said the Lights will have their work cut out for them this weekend.
"We'll have to play a well-balanced game," Walker said.
Northern has been working on their half-court offense and their man-to-man defense this week.
Walker said they need to cut down on turnovers and make good decisions with the ball. This entails getting the ball into certain people's hands.
The Lights have been working on their defense all week as well.
"That is where big games are won," Walker said.
Northern has not seen the Bears in action yet this year, Walker said, only on film.
The Lights have been without forward David Sawyer during the past 18 games, and, Walker said, they will still be without him this weekend.
"We will go as we have for the past 18 games," Walker said.
Northern finished off their non-conference schedule with a thumping of the University of Manitoba. Walker said he can only hope that some of the confidence and momentum picked up in those games will carry over.
Rocky, though, is a much different team, and the game will be much more up-tempo and more physical.
Most of the confidence Walker wants to see is built in practice and, he said, they had a great week in the gym.
"It will just depend on how we come out," Walker said.
The Lights play just one game this weekend, but, Walker said, it wouldn't matter if they were playing four games, they still need to be rested and ready to come out mentally.
The Lights' conference home-opener is Thursday, Jan. 20, against L-C State, at 8 p.m.