GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Freshman T.J. Oshie scored his nation-leading ninth game-winning goal and junior Drew Stafford tallied his nation-best seventh shorthander to power North Dakota past Michigan 5-1 in the semifinals of the NCAA West Regional Friday.
The win enabled UND (28-15-1) to avenge its 1998 loss to the Wolverines (21-15-5), who knocked the Sioux out in the first round of the NCAA playoffs on Michigan’s home ice at Yost Arena. That season, Michigan went on to win its ninth national championship.
UND’s win and Holy Cross’s surprising 4-3 overtime upset of number-one seed Minnesota sets up a game between the Fighting Sioux and the Crusaders at 8 p.m. Saturday in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Against Michigan, UND got off to the fast first-period start it needed, getting the home crowd of 11,153 into the game by scoring two power-play goals on three shots.
“I think it’s great,” UND freshman forward Jonathan Toews, said of the home-ice advantage. “They were going crazy right off the start tonight when we got those two goals. That definitely pumps a little adrenaline into us and gets us going.”
“We had to come out and understand there’d be a great home-ice environment, and there was, and you didn’t want to give up that first goal,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “And we did, too easily. That hurt us.”
UND goalie Jordan Parise continued his stellar performance in the playoffs, stopping 34 of 35 shots and helping to hold the Wolverines to 1-for-6 on the power play.
“The team in general is just playing a lot better in front of me,” Parise said. “They make my job a lot easier. The puck seems pretty big right now.”
At 5:01 of the first period, Sioux defenseman Kyle Radke passed the puck down low to freshman forward Jonathan Toews at the left side of the net. Toews whipped a cross-crease pass to freshman Ryan Duncan, who one-timed the puck into the open net.
Oshie scored his 24th goal of the year at 7:28. With the Sioux on the power play, forward Rastislav Spirko left a drop pass near the top of the right circle that Oshie fired in far-side past Michigan senior goalie Noah Ruden to give UND a 2-0 lead.
The Sioux killed three penalties in the first period, often keeping the Wolverines bottled up with tenacious forechecking. Michigan outshot UND 9-5 in the period, but Parise held the Wolverines scoreless.
“We had some good scoring chances and we thought we had some ideas on how we might beat him, but he showed up and made some big saves,” Berenson said of Parise’s performance.
In the second period, junior forward Drew Stafford scored shorthanded to give UND a 3-0 lead. Stafford took a pass from Travis Zajac, went in alone and beat Ruden cleanly with a wrister at the 4:08 mark. It was Stafford’s first game back after missing four games with a leg injury.
“That shorthanded goal was the killer,” Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett said. “It was costly.”
Just 22 seconds later, Michigan answered with a power-play goal. Sophomore wing Chad Kolarik picked up a loose puck in the slot and fired it top-shelf over Parise, cutting UND’s lead to 3-1.
That would be as close as the Wolverines got. The Sioux restored their three-goal lead at 14:39 with their first even-strength goal. Ruden stopped Duncan’s point-blank shot, but the rebound went high in the air. Toews found the puck in a tangle of sticks and skates, firing it in along the ice to put UND up 4-1. It was the Winnipeg, Man., native’s 20th goal of the season.
In the third period, UND put on a clinic of puck control and forechecking, sometimes cycling the puck for long periods in Michigan’s zone.
“I’m really happy with the way our team kept pushing, kept pressing all the way through for 60 minutes,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol. “We did an excellent job in the third period of closing out the game.”
At 14:42, Oshie outworked the Wolverine defenders along the right boards and, as he was falling, shoveled a cross-ice pass to Zajac, who one-timed the puck past Ruden to make the final score 5-1.
“That’s a good group of forwards on the other side of the ice,” said Ebbett. “It was the best group of forwards we’ve played against all year, and we’ve played against some pretty good teams.”
“We didn’t think it was a 5-1 game, but it turned out that way,” said Berenson. “We had to come up with an upset effort, and it just didn’t happen.”