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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum News Service, Published January 03 2013

UND men's hockey plays host to streaking Crusaders

GRAND FORKS – The last time Paul Pearl, Jim Wrobel and Bill Bellerose were in Grand Forks, they walked into a restaurant and received a standing ovation.

“We were wearing our Holy Cross stuff,” said Wrobel, the school’s sports info director.

That’s all it took back in 2006.

Holy Cross became cult heroes in Grand Forks after stunning No. 1 seed Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Ralph Engelstad Arena. It was arguably the biggest upset in college hockey history.

Tyler McGregor scored the overtime game-winner, sending The Ralph into a wild celebration as the University of North Dakota’s biggest rival was knocked out of the national tournament. It marked the first time that a No. 4 seed had topped a No. 1 seed under the tournament’s current format.

UND beat Holy Cross the next night to earn a trip to the Frozen Four, but that loss did not spoil the Grand Forks experience for the Crusaders.

“I just remember the fans,” Wrobel said. “That’s the main thing. That’s the most fans we’d ever have cheering for us. I remember the whole arena loving hockey. I remember, after the game, walking into a restaurant and people giving us a standing ovation. It was just great.

“Even that second game, you could tell the fans wanted North Dakota to win, but they were really respectful and still cheering for us.”

Holy Cross is back in Grand Forks for the first time since that stunning March weekend – this time to play a nonconference, regular-season series against UND (7:37 tonight, 7:07 p.m. Saturday).

There won’t be a lot of carry-over from that weekend. Only three people who made the trip from Holy Cross were here in 2006 – Wrobel, the head coach Pearl and the associate athletic director Bellerose.

But in Grand Forks, the upset is still fresh in the minds of many fans.

The YouTube clip featuring the radio call of the Holy Cross student broadcasters has been viewed 47,000 times.

The audio is still played on the KFAN radio station in the Twin Cities. Another YouTube version of the winning goal has been viewed 53,000 times.

“I remember a couple of years ago watching the NCAA basketball tournament and the NCAA ran a commercial with the clip of that goal in it,” Wrobel said.

ESPN recently ranked the top 10 David vs. Goliath upsets in college hockey and showed McGregor’s goal. It was the top college hockey game on the list. It also was recently ranked the top moment in Holy Cross sports history (and Holy Cross has won a Division I NCAA basketball national championship and a College World Series).

But the upset is not mentioned often among Holy Cross players.

“I try to dissuade against talking about that too much,” Pearl said. “Basically, it’s a whole new group of people and we’re trying to make our own history.”

That’s what the Crusaders have been doing this season.

Last week, they cracked the national rankings for the first time since they were in Grand Forks in 2006. Six of their top seven scorers are forwards, including Brandon Nunn, who recently returned from an injury to spark a potent top line.

The Crusaders come to Grand Forks on a four-game unbeaten streak and with a 10-4-2 overall record.

“I don’t think anyone was picking us very high,” Pearl said. “We knew we had some good flash coming in with the freshmen. We have an interesting blend of young and old. We skate pretty well and the guys are pretty disciplined. For us to be where we’re at. ... I don’t want to say it’s a surprise, because I liked our group.”

Pearl hopes the current team will have some new memories to bring home from Grand Forks this time. He hasn’t forgotten the last trip here.

“I remember the excitement of the whole situation,” Pearl said. “It was quite memorable for us.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald