March 24, 2006
West Regional | First Round
The Stunner
Holy Cross' historic upset sets up meeting with Fighting Sioux for the Regional title

By Jayson Hron

Holy Cross 4, Minnesota 3 OT
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period

No Scoring

Second Period

1-HC Dale Reinhardt (11) EV
8:49 B. Bartlett, T. McGregor
1-MN Mike Howe (13) SH
13:15 G. Guyer
2-HC Tyler McGregor (25) PP
13:46 J. Sixsmith, J. Landry
2-MN Phil Kessel (18) EV
15:45 E. Kaufmann, C. Harrington
Third Period
3-MN Alex Goligoski (11) EV
2:17 B. Wheeler
3-HC Pierre Napert-Frenette (16) EV
7:53 S. Nappo, J. Landry
Overtime
4-HC Tyler McGregor (26) EV
0:53 M. Burke
Goaltending
HC: Tony Quesada, 60:46, 35 saves, 3 GA
MN: Kellen Briggs, 60:53, 24 saves, 4 GA
Penalties: HC 8/16; MN 11/22
Power Plays: HC 1-10; MN 0-7
Attendance: 11,153

GRAND FORKS, N.D.– Holy Cross entered the 2006 NCAA West Regional as a team known for keeping the puck out of its own net, albeit against fairly unknown opponents. The Crusaders built upon that reputation heading into Saturday night’s regional final after mounting arguably the greatest upset in college hockey history, a 4-3 overtime triumph over No. 2 Minnesota on Friday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Tony Quesada, Holy Cross’ senior goaltender, was the difference. Already the owner of Crusader records aplenty, the Maine native assumed a legend’s status against Minnesota by turning aside 35 shots from the nation’s second-leading offense. His childhood dream was to be a Golden Gopher. Instead, he will be remembered forever as the villain who derailed Minnesota’s national championship express.

“My mom grew up in Minnesota, so every year at Christmas time, I would get Golden Gopher stuff – hats and shirts,” said Quesada. “So, as a kid you just think, ‘Oh, that’s where I want to play college hockey.’ To come out here and play Minnesota, it’s just a great experience. And beating them… It can’t get any better than that.”

The signs of trouble were apparent early for Minnesota, which looked uninspired and imprecise from the opening faceoff.

“We definitely didn’t play up to our capabilities,” said Gino Guyer, the Golden Gopher captain. “It just seemed like we lost a step from where we were earlier in the season. We just never got it back.”

Minnesota head coach Don Lucia compared it to his 1995 Colorado College team that entered regional play as a No. 2 seed, only to flame out against an upstart Golden Gopher squad in quarterfinals.

“The big battle cry was, ‘Get to the NCAA Tournament. Get there, get there, get there,’” said Lucia of his former Tiger squad. “Then, when we got there, we were emotionally flat. When I walked into the locker room after the game tonight, there were some tears but there were a lot of guys with blank looks. And that kind of shows the emotion level where our kids were at. For whatever reason, they didn’t have that zip.”

Tyler McGregor, Holy Cross’ leading scorer, had plenty of zip. In fact, he had zip in reserve, scoring a pair of goals including the overtime game-winner just 53 seconds into the extra session. A right-hand shot, McGregor took advantage of an opportunity on his off-wing – and a fortunate bounce off P.J. Atherton’s skate – to end Minnesota’s season.

“I was looking to make the pass across but it hit the inside of the defender’s foot,” said McGregor. “It caromed right back on my stick. I didn’t even know where the goaltender was. I just shot it.”

Minnesota’s Kellen Briggs was sliding across to trace the pass’ intended path. Unable to reverse his momentum after the deflection, Briggs watched helplessly as McGregor slid the puck into an open net.

“When you get a chance like that, you just don’t want to screw it up,” said McGregor. “I couldn’t be any happier right now.”

McGregor said that he and his teammates felt confident entering the game, fully believing they could win. He compared the Golden Gophers to Mercyhurst, a high-flying offensive club that his Crusaders toppled twice earlier this season.

“They play very similarly to them,” he said. “They play a real run-and-gun style. But, we know that in playing a game like that, we’re going to get our chances. We just have to capitalize on them, and we did that most of the time tonight.”

No one was capitalizing early in the contest. After a scoreless first period, Minnesota finally began to seize momentum, doing so in much the same way an elephant would gain momentum sitting on a lawn chair – steadily but without grace. The Golden Gophers pushed the shots-on-goal discrepancy to 21-11 despite less-than-precise puck movement before Holy Cross responded at 8:49. Sophomore Dale Reinhardt did the honors, one-timing a slick touch pass from Blair Bartlett past Briggs.

Fueled by a bit of renewed urgency, Minnesota evened the score at 13:15 while whittling away a Holy Cross power play. Mike Howe’s persistence paid dividends as the sophomore left wing one-timed a shot of the pipe, secured the rebound, and then zipped a follow-up past Quesada for a short-handed goal.

Alas, it was never meant to be an easy night for the Gophers, and Holy Cross regained the lead just 31 seconds later, during a 5-on-3 power-play, on McGregor’s first goal of the night – a blistering one-timer that eluded Briggs’ blocker and paddle.

The goal sprung Minnesota’s Kris Chucko from the penalty box but Phil Kessel remained incarcerated, severing what was left of a high-sticking minor. It proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Golden Gophers. Just as Kessel’s penalty expired, sophomore Evan Kaufman cruised unmolested through the neutral zone during a Crusaders line change and spotted Kessel, whose sudden emergence turned it into a Minnesota 2-on-1. Kaufman made no mistake, immediately sliding the puck to Minnesota’s freshman phenom who did what goal scorers are supposed to do – convert on chances, no matter how unexpected. His shot between Quesada’s legs evened the count at 2-2. It was Kessel’s 18th goal and 51st point of the season

The score remained tied until 2:17 of the final frame when Minnesota defenseman Alex Goligoski unleashed another of his trademark sizzling wrist shots to beat Quesada and give the Golden Gophers their first lead of the game. But the Crusaders wouldn’t relent. Pierre Napert-Frenette, Holy Cross’ captain, pounced on his own pipe rebound five minutes later, shoveling the puck past Briggs to knot the score at 3-3. Briggs had frozen on the play, evidently thinking that the puck was either already in the net, whistled dead or out of play.

The 3-3 deadlock remained until McGregor untied it moments into overtime, scoring a goal that sealed an upset for the ages – and left the vaunted Golden Gophers being compared to Mercyhurst.

North Dakota 5, Michigan 1
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-ND Ryan Duncan (15) PP
5:01 J. Toews, K. Radke
2-ND T.J. Oshie (24) PP
7:28 R. Spirko, B. Lee

Second Period

3-ND Drew Stafford (24) SH
4:08 T. Zajac
1-MI Chad Kolarik (12) PP
4:30 B. Kaleniecki, M. Hunwick
4-ND Jonathan Toews (20) EV
14:39 R. Duncan
Third Period
5-ND Travis Zajac (15) EV
14:42 T.J. Oshie
Goaltending
MI: Noah Ruden, 60:00, 28 saves, 5 GA
ND: Jordan Parise, 60:00, 34 saves, 1 GA
Penalties: MI 7/14; ND 9/18
Power Plays: MI 1-6; ND 2-4
Attendance: 11,153

NEVER IN DOUBT

There was never any doubt. Buoyed by a boisterous Ralph Engelstad Arena crowd and Minnesota’s stunning loss to Holy Cross, the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota stormed onto the ice for Friday’s NCAA West Regional showdown with Michigan and marched off with a succinct, convincing and workmanlike 5-1 victory, knowing full well the opportunity that lay ahead of them.

Playing its finest hockey of the season, North Dakota will meet upset-minded Holy Cross on Saturday with the Frozen Four at stake.

“We wanted to come in tonight and have an opportunity to come back tomorrow and we did that,” said Fighting Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol. “Now we’ll prepare to face a very good Holy Cross team.”

Saturday’s game will feature the West Regional’s top two goaltenders: Holy Cross’ Tony Quesada and North Dakota’s Jordan Parise, both of whom boast saves percentages in excess of .920. Parise surrendered just a single goal to Michigan on 36 shots, once again acting as North Dakota’s backbone.

Michigan’s goaltending has not been a backbone this season and the struggles continued against North Dakota. Senior Noah Ruden was victimized twice in the game’s opening eight minutes, essentially squashing the Wolverines’ chances before either team had broken a sweat.

Ryan Duncan struck first, tallying his fourth power-play goal of the season to conclude a brilliant three-way passing play at 5:01. The capacity crowd had barely stopped rocking when the incomparable T.J. Oshie, who some felt was unjustly robbed of WCHA Freshman of the Year honors, zipped a shot past Ruden’s blocker and into the top corner to make the score 2-0. Both North Dakota goals had come on the power play.

What pulse remained for the Wolverines was extinguished just four minutes into the second period when North Dakota’s Travis Zajac spotted Drew Stafford streaking into the clear during a Fighting Sioux penalty kill. The sophomore from Winnipeg slid a long pass to Stafford, who broke in alone on Ruden and scored in his return from a deep thigh bruise suffered during the WCHA playoffs.

“That shorthanded goal was the killer,” said Michigan’s Andrew Ebbett. “It was costly.”

Michigan answered with a power-play goal from sophomore Chad Kolarik just 22 seconds later, but the Fighting Sioux piled on with another goal at 14:39 from Jonathan Toews to put the game out of reach. Zajac added an insurance marker late in the third period to close out the scoring – and the Wolverines – on a late night in the Red River Valley that stretched to 11:45 p.m. before the final horn sounded.

“From our perspective, we didn’t feel like it was a 5-1 game,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “But it turned into it. North Dakota got a great start and got the crowd into it. We had to come up with an upset effort and we didn’t do it.”

The North Dakota effort was complete in every fashion, especially special teams.

“This time of year, specialty teams is all about execution,” said Hakstol. “And tonight, we won the special teams battle.”

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. T.J. Oshie, North Dakota
A goal and an assist, several solid hits and a plus-2 rating. Freshman wunderkind continues to impress.

2. Tony Quesada, Holy Cross
Thirty-five saves to upset Minnesota. Enough said.

1. Tyler McGregor, Holy Cross
Two goals including the overtime game-winner and an assist to upset Minnesota. He’s that straw that stirs Holy Cross’ Powerade.

SEEN AND HEARD AT THE RALPH

• A massive crowd was both seen and heard at the Ralph. The announced attendance for each game was 11,153, breaking the previous single-game attendance record for a West or Midwest Regional of 9,540 set at Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena in 2003.

• There was a complete sellout of hotel rooms in greater Grand Forks which eased after Minnesota’s stunning loss. Word is that there is a lot of traffic moving east on I-94 tonight.

• Michigan’s Red Berenson on the Holy Cross upset of Minnesota: “Anything can happen in a game, but that’s the biggest that I can remember in 20 years of college hockey.”

• With the victory in goal – his 54th as a member of the Fighting Sioux, Jordan Parise moved into a second-place tie with Lefty Curran on the University’s all-time goaltender victories list.

• North Dakota’s T.J. Oshie took over the nation’s lead in game-winning goals with his marker against Michigan. It was his ninth GWG of the season, a UND record.

• The REA staff used its press box in addition to two rows of seats in two sections to house the gathered media on Friday.

• Michigan’s Andrew Ebbett on North Dakota’s stable of forwards: “That’s the best group of forwards we’ve seen this year.”

PLUSSES AND MINUSES

To the losing teams. Answering the media’s questions can be difficult after bitter defeats like these, but both Minnesota and Michigan handled the post-game media scrum with class and dignity.

To college hockey, which took a giant step forward with Holy Cross’ win.

“The reality is, their win tonight was good for college hockey,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “These leagues and these teams are getting better.”

To the NCAA’s game management crew who collected the puck that was Tyler McGregor’s game-winning goal and presented it to him after the game.

Who is responsible for starting games this late? Is it television? Any on-deadline sportswriters were bitter with the midnight finish.

To the media member who asked Berenson about whether it’s fair to have a team playing in the regionals on its home ice. Ice is ice. Isn’t it time to put this argument to rest? Would you prefer playing at some neutral rink with 200 people in the stands? Kudos to Berenson for handling the question with tact.

“Is it fair? No. But there’s not a better environment than an on-campus rink,” he said.

To the sound crew at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Maybe we’re just getting old, but can you please turn the volume down a little bit. The fans and the bands are enough. We don’t need woofer-popping commercials and music that distort because of the extreme volume. It’s not adding anything.

WHAT'S NEXT

Everyone thought it would be Minnesota tasked with toppling the Fighting Sioux in Grand Forks. Instead, it will be upstart Holy Cross. The game amounts to a goaltending and special teams battle, with North Dakota entering as the obvious favorite.

The Fighting Sioux wins if Parise plays well and the offense generates chances similar to those it generated against Michigan.

The Crusaders win if Quesada plays brilliantly and they stay out of the penalty box. Despite holding Minnesota scoreless on seven chances with the man advantage, playing with fire tomorrow will likely leave Holy Cross looking combustible.