Weekend Preview: North Dakota vs. Holy Cross

It has been ten seasons since North Dakota tangled with Holy Cross, and the Green and White handled the Crusaders 5-2 and 3-2 in a January 2013 home sweep. Holy Cross led Saturday’s game 2-1 after two periods, but UND rallied with two goals in the third period. Sioux senior Corban Knight had six points on the weekend.

That trip to Grand Forks pales in comparison to the 2006 NCAA regional at the Ralph, when Holy Cross upset Minnesota 4-3 in overtime in front of 11,153 pro-purple fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Crusaders held the Golden Gophers scoreless on seven man-advantage opportunities and converted one of their ten power plays, as overtime hero Tyler McGregor also scored on a five-on-three late in the second period to breathe life into the Holy Cross bench and the partisan crowd.

This season, Holy Cross was tabbed to finish in last place in the ten-team Atlantic Hockey conference, while North Dakota is ranked #3 in the country and was picked to finish second in the NCHC, the nation’s toughest conference and winners of five of the past six national titles.

Second-year head coach Bill Riga led Holy Cross to twelve wins last season (12-23-2), a huge improvement over the 4-12-0 mark posted by his predecessor David Berard, who managed a record of 84-116-34 in his seven seasons behind the Crusaders’ bench. Riga was a former Quinnipiac assistant who faced off against UND in the 2016 national title game.

Holy Cross has managed just two NCAA tourney appearances (2004, 2006) in its 56-year history at the Division I level, and both of those tournament runs ended at the hands of North Dakota.

In exhibition action last weekend, North Dakota bested Manitoba 5-1, while Holy Cross upended Boston College 3-2.

UND has only four freshmen on the roster this season (all forwards) and just three seniors, although the Fighting Hawks also have six graduate or fifth-year students.

Holy Cross Team Profile

Head Coach: Bill Riga (2nd season at Holy Cross, 12-23-2, .351)

National Rankings: NR/NR
Last Season: 12-23-2 overall, 7-14-3-2 Atlantic Hockey (10th of 10 teams)

Last Season’s Statistics:

Team Offense: 2.08 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.92 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 18.9% (24 of 127)
Penalty Kill: 81.9% (131 of 160)

Key Players (last season’s statistics):

Junior F Jack Ricketts (10-8-18), Junior F Matt Guerra (7-11-18), Junior F Lucas Thorne (7-10-17), Senior F Grayson Constable (7-1-8), Senior D Nick Hale (4-18-22), Junior F Jake Higgins (1-3-4), Sophomore G Thomas Gale (2-3-0, 3.72 GAA, .891 SV%)

North Dakota Team Profile

Head Coach: Brad Berry (8th season at UND, 162-77-25, .661)

National Rankings: #3/#3
Last Season: 24-14-1 overall (NCAA Regional Semifinalist), 17-6-1 NCHC (t-1st)

Last Season’s Statistics:

Team Offense: 3.05 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.59 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 23.1% (33 of 143)
Penalty Kill: 78.6% (121 of 154)

Key Players (last season’s statistics): Junior F Riese Gaber (15-22-37), Sophomore F Jake Schmaltz (8-16-24), Sophomore F Matteo Costantini (8-13-21), Senior F Judd Caulfield (11-9-20), Junior F Louie Jamernik V (9-10-19), Senior D Ethan Frisch (9-6-15), Junior D Tyler Kleven (7-3-10), Graduate Student D Chris Jandric (1-14-15), Graduate Student Drew DeRidder (9-15-1, 2.94 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO)

By The Numbers

Last Meeting: January 5, 2013 (Grand Forks, ND). Holy Cross led 2-1 after forty minutes of play but could not hold on, as Michael Parks and Danny Kristo potted third-period goals ten minutes apart to give North Dakota a 3-2 victory and the series sweep. UND outshot the Crusaders 37-19 for the game and 78-34 on the weekend.

Most Important Meeting: March 25, 2006 (Grand Forks, ND). One night after Holy Cross shocked the hockey world by downing Minnesota and North Dakota delighted the home fans with a 5-1 defeat of the Michigan Wolverines, the Fighting Sioux and Crusaders met with a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four on the line. UND’s Jonathan Toews scored less than 80 seconds into the contest and North Dakota never trailed, outshooting Holy Cross 32-19 and advancing to the Frozen Four with a 5-2 victory.

All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series 4-0 and has outscored the Crusaders 16-6. The teams first met on March 26, 2004 (NCAA West Regional).

Game News and Notes

The Crusaders play their home games at Hart Recreation Center (capacity 1,400). Last season, Holy Cross was 10-1-1 when scoring three or more goals but a dreadful 2-22-1 when failing to score three. The Crusaders have not faced an NCHC opponent since the last time they played North Dakota (January 2013). UND junior forward Riese Gaber was named to the 2022-2023 Preseason All-CHN First Team.

The Prediction

In the more than twenty years that Ralph Engelstad Arena has been open, we’ve seen many examples of North Dakota taking opponents too lightly as well as opposing teams bringing their best effort to the Ralph. This year’s version of the Green and White should be better defensively, with goaltending the only question mark. I expect a tight contest in Game One, with depth and talent shining through in the rematch. UND 3-2, 4-1.

Broadcast Information

Both games will be broadcast live on Midco Sports and also available via webcast at NCHC.tv. All UND men’s hockey games can be heard on stations across the UND Sports Home of Economy Radio Network as well as through the iHeart Radio app.

Social Media

Keep up with the action live during all UND hockey games by following @UNDmhockey and @UNDInsider on Twitter. Fans can also read the action via Brad Schlossman’s live chat on the Grand Forks Herald website.

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