Holy Cross' history in Ralph Engelstad Arena lost on many current players
The Crusaders pulled off one of college hockey's biggest upsets 17 years ago in Grand Forks. But many players have never heard of it.
GRAND FORKS — Matteo Costantini was asked this week if he's aware of Holy Cross' history in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The UND sophomore forward shook his head.
"No," he said.
"About when they upset Minnesota here?" he was asked again.
"Never heard of it," he said.
UND defenseman Ryan Sidorski, who was lingering nearby, said he'd never heard of it, either.
When Holy Cross takes the ice at 7:07 p.m. Friday to open a two-game series against UND, many fans will be thinking about that shocking night in March 2006, when the Crusaders stunned a loaded Minnesota team in front of a raucous green-and-white crowd that adopted Holy Cross as its second-favorite team for the night.
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From the time Holy Cross forward Tyler McGregor scored the game-winning goal in overtime to when Drew Stafford put UND ahead of Michigan 3-0 on a shorthanded goal in the nightcap, The Ralph was abuzz in a way it hasn't been before or since.
But for a lot of players, especially ones who aren't local, they've never even heard of the upset and the words 'Holy Cross' conjure up no memories.
"They know Holy Cross beat Boston College last week," said UND coach Brad Berry, who was an assistant coach during the 2006 regional. "We stay current.
"Everybody goes back to '06. A lot of these guys were infants when that happened. At the end of the day, we're current as to what happened last week or what happened in the last two or three weeks before you play a team."
No. 3 UND is instead focused on starting the year off right against an Atlantic Hockey team that knocked off Boston College 3-2 in an exhibition game last Saturday.
"They got out of the chute right away and they went after Boston College," Berry said. "They just wanted it more. It doesn't matter who you're playing against — whether it's Holy Cross or another nonconference team or one of the other seven NCHC teams — when they come into The Ralph, they come to play and they come to win. We always have to try to match or exceed that level."
Since the National Collegiate Hockey Conference started in October 2013, Holy Cross has not played a single one of its eight teams. The last time it played a current NCHC member was January 2013, when the Crusaders came to Grand Forks for a two-game series.
UND, still in the old Western Collegiate Hockey Association, swept that series 5-2 and 3-2. UND had to come from behind in the third period Saturday to win. That game was attended by 11,587, the largest crowd Holy Cross has ever played in front of.
Holy Cross has not been back to the NCAA tournament since that 2006 run, which ended when UND beat the Crusaders 5-2 in the regional final.
Several UND players from that team are still playing pro hockey — Jonathan Toews is the captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, T.J. Oshie is a star with the Washington Capitals and Jean-Philippe Lamoureux is playing in Austria. Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford recently retired after decorated NHL careers.
None of the Holy Cross players from the 2006 team are still playing professionally. They've gone onto different careers. McGregor, who scored the winner against Minnesota, is now a surgeon. Forward Jim Tselikis, who assisted on a goal against UND, landed a deal on ABC's Shark Tank and became a millionaire.
This weekend, the latest version of the Crusaders will try to follow in the footsteps of the 2006 squad and pull an upset in Grand Forks. But this time, they won't be an adopted favorite of the local crowd.
"How are we going to react to that environment?" asked Riga, whose team hasn't played in front of more than 5,000 people in the last five years. "It's a big environment. It's a bit of a big stage. . . a lot of people in a hostile environment. Do we maintain our calm? Do we keep our composure? Do we stay focused on playing the game we want to play to get a result we want?"
Holy Cross at No. 3 UND
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday, 6:07 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena (tickets available).
TV: Midco Sports (GF Ch. 27/622 HD).
Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM) on Friday, Cat Country (100.3 FM) on Saturday.