GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The pressure always is there for a team coming off an NCAA championship a season ago with eight NCAA title banners hanging from the rafters at Ralph Engelstad Arena as evidence of the program's pedigree.
The expections from the fans are great, but they pale a bit compared to what the players on the University of North Dakota men's hockey team place upon themselves.
UND (7-5-2) took a blow on both counts tonight when unranked Michigan State (4-6) upset the No. 5 Fighting Hawks 4-3 in the opening game of the Subway Holiday Classic.
The Spartans of the Big Ten took a 4-1 lead early in the third period, then withstood two goals by UND freshman Tyson Jost in 31 seconds and a furious attack in the last 10 minutes to win.
Freshman defenseman Jerald Rosburg scored twice and Joe Cox and Connor Wood added one apiece as the Spartans quieted a crowd of 11,265 for much of the night.
UND outshot the Spartans 33-21, but Rhett Gardner, Gage Ausmus and Tucker Poolman all hit posts and MSU goalie Ed Minney turned back 30 UND shots, 13 of them in the final period when UND pressured with 15 shots on net.
"I think we learned a lot about ourselves,'' Gardner, who hit the post early in the second period with an empty net facing him when the puck rolled up the blade of his stick.
"We've got to bring it every night.''
And coming off an impressive pair of shutout wins on the road at St. Cloud State last weekend, UND hoped to build on that. Instead, UND delivered a flat performance until late in the game.
"Everyone in the locker room underestimated what was coming (the Spartans) to the Ralph, and Brad (coach Berry) said after the game, to win a championship, you've got to be consistent,'' Gardner said.
And UND was not.
"We had a good weekend last weekend, but I think we had that in our head too much,'' Gardner added.
UND goalie Cam Johnson, a Troy, Mich., native who had never lost to a college team from Michigan, was beaten on two of the first three shots, both to the glove side by Rosburg, who had one career goal coming into the weekend.
The Spartans built the lead to 4-1 on goals from Wood at 7:34 of the second period and by Cox on a power play at 2:35 of the final period.
Jost scored at 9:16 and again at 9:47 to fire up the fans. Berry pulled Johnson for a sixth attacker with 100 seconds left, but UND couldn't net the equalizer.
Shane Gersich scored his 11th goal of the season and seventh in the last four games to give UND a 1-0 lead on a power at 6:57 of the opening period. But then Rosburg, son of a former NDSU football player, rifled in two goals and changed the complexion of the game.
"I thought we came out and had a pretty good start, then momentum got away from us a litle bit, for a couple of different reaons,'' Berry said. "A lack of execution and taking penalties.''
UND took five penalties in a row through the second period and first minute of the third.
"It's one of those things where have to sustain momentum for 60 minutes in order to win a game,'' Berry added.
UND had a golden chance when MSU's Mason Appelton drew a 5-minute major and game misconduct for a contact to the head hit. But UND defenseman Hayden Shaw drew a minor for tripping early on in that major, short-circuiting that big opportunity.
Jost, though, delivered his first goal 15 seconds after Shaw's penalty and his second 31 seconds later. Both came with teams skating a man short. The Spartans then withstood heavy pressure from UND the final 10 minutes to pull off the upset.
Berry thought UND was going to tie it late.
"I thought we were, absolutely,'' he said. "There were a couple of different instances where we had opportunities to do it, but didn't. Hand it to them -- they got bodies in the shooting lanes. They sacrificed their body to try to get it done. We have to make sure that, the last 10 minutes, that's the way we play for 60 minutes.''
UND notes: All-America forward Brock Boeser was scratched from the UND lineup with a lingering upper body injury suffered earlier in the season. Berry said his status for the Saturday rematch would be evaluated prior to that game ... UND was 1-for-4 on the power play with 8 shots, MSU 2-for-6 with 8 shots ... UND won the faceoffs 39-26 led by Jost (19 of 28), Gardner (11 of 17) and Ludvig Hoff (4 of 4) ... Jost led all players in shots on goal with 8 while Taro Hirose led MSU with 4 ... The three stars as voted by the media were Rosburg, Jost and MSU"s Sam Saliba (2 assists) ... Gersich had a 3-point with two assists to back his lone goal.
Virg Foss covered UND for the Grand Forks Herald for 35 seasons and 5 NCAA championships until his retirement in 2005. He's in his 12th year of reporting on UND home games exclusively for UNDsports.com.