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Big stage, big performance for UND

NEW YORK -- North Dakota traveled to America's largest city this week. It walked into the World's Most Famous Arena on Saturday night. It played a game in front of Phil Jackson, the state's U.S. Senator and the town's mayor. And the players made ...

NEW YORK - North Dakota traveled to America's largest city this week.

It walked into the World's Most Famous Arena on Saturday night.

It played a game in front of Phil Jackson, the state's U.S. Senator and the town's mayor.

And the players made sure all of the glitz and glamour of its trip to Manhattan would be memorable by toppling longtime nemesis Boston College 4-3 in the inaugural College Hockey Showdown in Madison Square Garden.

A crowd of 11,348 - mostly decked out in green and white - chanted and cheered throughout the game, rising to their feet as the players surrounded the New York Rangers logo at center ice and did a stick salute with 'New York' by Alicia Keys blaring over the speakers at the end.

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"It was unbelievable," UND goalie Cam Johnson said. "This city is unbelievable. It was very special to come out here and see New York City and see a place a lot of guys haven't seen and some guys might never see. It was special playing an opponent like Boston College. It was an amazing experience, and we're going to have a fun ride home."

So will the fans.

They came here in the thousands, flooding tourist destinations all week. And they were able to cap off their trip by watching UND beat Boston College, an opponent that has caused the Fighting Hawks so much misery over the last 12 years.

While many of the players were too young to know the history, the fans still have the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Frozen Four losses to the Eagles etched deep into their minds.

"It's been an Achilles' Heel trying to win a game against a great program," UND coach Brad Berry said.

UND was able to get over the hump thanks to key performances from all over the lineup.

The first star of the game was rookie Tyson Jost, the youngest player on UND's roster, who wasn't rattled at all by the big stage. He scored two goals in the second period-one a highlight-reel move on the top of the crease and the other a snipe from the left circle.

Another star of the game was sophomore forward Joel Janatuinen, who scored a goal midway through the third period to break a 2-2 tie.

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And perhaps the most unlikely star of the game was junior forward Trevor Olson.

The Duluth native scored his first goal in more than two years-a span of 57 games-when he intercepted a pass, fought off a check and picked the corner of the net for a 4-2 lead with 2:01 to play. That goal ended up being the game-winner, because Boston College scored with 8.7 seconds left with its goalie pulled.

"It feels really good," Olson said. "It's been quite some time, probably almost two years since I scored my last goal. It's not my role and my goal to score goals every game, but obviously it's nice to get one, especially in a venue like this."

Another key performance came from goaltender Cam Johnson, who made 28 saves and only allowed goals when Boston College had extra attackers on the ice.

The Eagles took advantage of a major facemasking penalty against Rhett Gardner to rally from down 2-0 early in the third period. Colin White scored a five-on-three goal during the major and Chris Brown tied it just as the penalty expired.

But even though the Fighting Hawks were playing their third straight game without star forward Brock Boeser, they found a way to rally and win in the end.

"It shows confidence that we can close out a game when there are momentum shifts," Berry said. "So many times, when we played Minnesota earlier, we had the lead and gave it up. We finally found a way to win a game. This is a little experience we'll draw from in the future."

No. 9 UND moved to 8-5-3 overall, getting a much-needed win after posting just two victories in 10 games coming into Saturday night. Boston College, ranked No. 3 nationally, fell to 12-5-1.

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"Everything about the event was Frozen Four-ish to me," Boston College coach Jerry York said. "When we've gotten to the Frozen Four in the last decade, North Dakota has been there with us. The stage is something like this. It's two good teams. It wasn't a typical regular-season game. It was more of a tournament atmosphere for me."

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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