Crusaders Pull Off Stunner, Win One for the Little Guy
by Bryan Engelson/CHN Correspondent
GRAND FORKS, N.D. "We want to have something to do tomorrow."
That was Holy Cross' motto heading into Friday night's West Regional at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Crusaders may need a new one after defeating Minnesota 4-3 in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.
Holy Cross head coach Paul Pearl already had one in his mind following the game.
"We lived another day," Pearl said. "Now, I guess, our motto will have to be that we want to practice on Tuesday."
Tyler McGregor's goal 53 seconds into overtime completed the upset. The Crusaders, who were seeded 15th out of the 16 teams that qualified for the tournament, became the lowest seed to win a tournament game since it expanded to 16 teams in 2003.
After the game, however, McGregor didn't seem as surprised at the upset as the NCAA regional tournament record 11,153 fans did.
"We weren't supposed to win the game by anyone else," the senior captain said. "In our locker room that was a different story."
The game-winning goal, McGregor's second of the game, came off a fortunate bounce. He tried to find a teammate streaking to the net after skating into the Minnesota zone. The pass hit off the skate of a Gopher defenseman and right back to McGregor, who had a wide open net because Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs shifted with the initial pass.
Once the lamp was lit, McGregor was immediately mobbed by his teammates.
"I saw a bunch of guys coming at me and I tried not to get killed," McGregor said. "It was great. It was a real relief."
The goal left Minnesota in a state of shock following the game. Gopher defenseman Chris Harrington struggled to talk about it.
"I have no emotion," Harrington said. "I can't even believe that happened."
Harrington, however, did find some words to say about Holy Cross goaltender Tony Quesada, who stopped 35 out of the 38 shots fired at him. Those saves included four or five huge ones in the closing minutes of the game.
"He was probably the best player on the ice tonight," Harrington said. "He seemed to get a piece of pretty much everything."
Holy Cross didn't look like much of an underdog throughout the game where the Crusaders got both the first, and last, laugh. The Crusaders didn't look like a huge underdog from the start as they outshot Minnesota 7-3 in the game's first 10 minutes.
The Gophers picked up their play in the second half of the first period, but the teams headed into the first intermission knotted at zero.
Holy Cross forward Dale Reinhardt changed that at 8:49 of the second period. Blair Bartlett dropped the puck to Reinhardt, who then beat Briggs top shelf over his glove.
"We've played pretty well with the lead all season," Pearl said.
The Gophers, however, took away that lead later on the period on a shorthanded goal by Mike Howe. Gino Guyer fired a shot off the post before Howe gathered the rebound in the left circle and scored at 13:15.
The game wasn't tied for long though. McGregor scored his 25th goal of the year 31 seconds later. James Sixsmith found McGregor perched in the left circle with a cross-ice pass for a one-timer.
"We had some nice goals," Pearl said. "We have some good players and some skilled kids who were able to get in positions to make plays."
Once again, the Crusaders didn't have the lead for long. Evan Kaufmann found freshman Phil Kessel streaking out of the penalty box for a 2-on-1 break, and Kessel finished the play with his 18th goal of the season at 15:45 of the second period.
Minnesota took its first lead of the game early in the third period. Blake Wheeler picked up the puck along the boards, passed to Alex Goligoski and Goligoski faked a defender before putting the puck past Quesada.
Pierre Napert-Frenet scored the final goal in regulation. Briggs save Sean Nappo's initial shot from the blue line, but had no idea the puck ended up right in front of him and Napert-Frenet was there to slam it home with 7:53 left in regulation.
"Anything can happen when it goes into overtime," Guyer said.
That anything on Friday was a monumental upset. It was an upset that capped off a string of late season struggles for the Gophers that seemed to come out of nowhere. Minnesota dropped its final three games of the season after looking like a juggernaut previously, going 20-1-1 in its previous 22 games.
"I think for whatever reason, the last three weeks we didn't play very well," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "I shouldn't say very well, but we lost the emotion."