North Dakota takes regional

The Sioux beat Holy Cross by a score of 5-2 in the West Regional final Saturday.

Chris Lempesis

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – In pulling off the massive upset of Minnesota’s men’s hockey team Friday night, Holy Cross beat a talented team that was anything but peaking at the right time.

In Saturday night’s NCAA West Regional Final, however, the Crusaders had to face an equally talented North Dakota squad that is playing its best hockey of the season.

And Holy Cross just didn’t have enough to keep up, as the Sioux rode that talent to a 5-2 victory at Ralph Engelstad Arena to advance to the Frozen Four for the 16th time in school history and second year in a row.

North Dakota beat Michigan 5-1 Friday night to advance to the matchup with Holy Cross.

Junior defenseman Matt Smaby, sophomore forward Travis Zajac and freshmen forwards Jonathan Toews and Ryan Duncan – all considered top-end players – lit the lamp for North Dakota (29-15-1).

Duncan, Smaby and Zajac all scored on the power play, turning in a three-for-five night for the Sioux on the man advantage.

“Goaltending and specialty teams, at this time of year, (are) probably two of the biggest factors between winning and losing games,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think most teams are playing very well 5-on-5.”

The other part of Hakstol’s equation – good goaltending – was also there for North Dakota on Saturday.

Junior netminder Jordan Parise, who has a 13-2 record in playoff games over the past two seasons, again was solid.

Although he faced just 19 shots, Parise did the job when he needed to, particularly when Holy Cross (27-10-2) was able to get within one goal on two separate occasions, 2-1 in the second period and 3-2 early in the third.

But after the game, Parise just wanted to talk about how far the Sioux, a team that was just 17-12-1 in late January, have come this season.

“If you’d have asked me three months ago, I would have said that there’s no possible way we’d be playing right now,” Parise said. “I would have thought that we would have lost in the first round of the playoffs, actually.”

But North Dakota is still playing.

“This ride, it’s kind of surreal to me right now,” Parise said. “It hasn’t really sunk in because I wanted this team to get this far but the way that things were going, I did not expect to get this far at all.”

All-Tournament team

The All-Tournament team for the NCAA West Regional had a strong green and white tint to it.

That’s because North Dakota players Duncan, Toews, Smaby and Parise took four of the six spots on the squad. Toews, who recorded two goals and three assists (five points) in two games, was named Most Outstanding Player.

The other two spots went to Holy Cross forward Tyler McGregor, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the Crusaders’ upset of Minnesota on Friday, and defenseman Jon Landry.