The University of North Dakota claimed their eighth NCAA National Championship and first since 2000 with a convincing 5-1 win over Quinnipiac University on Saturday night in the title game of the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four.
The Fighting Hawks were strong throughout this contest but found themselves up by only a 2-1 score after the first period. A scoreless second frame set the stage for a potentially nail-biting third period, but instead, North Dakota pulled away from the Bobcats with a three-goal burst in the first half of the final stanza to put Quinnipiac away while sending their faithful in the stands at Amalie Arena into the Tampa night in a celebratory mood.
Why North Dakota won: The Fighting Hawks were terrific at even strength, and with their depth were able to mount their offensive attack in waves, particularly in the third period. Sophomore netminder Cam Johnson turned in a stellar performance, making a number of key saves throughout the game.
Why Quinnipiac lost: Throughout the game, the Bobcats had difficulty matching North Dakota’s speed and grit. Furthermore, North Dakota forced Quinnipiac to play a more wide-open game, taking the Bobcats out of their element. Quinnipiac’s defense was very active in jumping into plays, which created several odd-man rushes for North Dakota. While senior netminder Michael Garteig played quite well, his efforts weren’t enough to stem the North Dakota attack.
How the teams scored
North Dakota freshman Shane Gersich (WSH) opened the scoring at 11:56 of the first period when he put home a rebound from just outside the Quinnipiac crease. Fellow freshman Brock Boeser (VAN) and junior defenseman Gage Ausmus (SJS) drew the assists.
At 14:16, Boeser extended North Dakota’s lead to 2-0 with a shorthanded tally that came as a result of Garteig misplaying the puck. The puck ended up on Boeser’s stick, who shot into an empty net. The goal, which was unassisted, would eventually be the game-winner.
At the 18:53 mark, junior Tim Clifton put Quinnipiac on the board to cut North Dakota’s lead to 2-1. The goal, which came on a two-man advantage for the Bobcats, was a one-timer by Clifton that beat Johnson high to the glove side. Junior defenseman Connor Clifton (ARI) and senior Travis St. Denis were credited with the assists.
Senior Drake Caggiula tallied the first of his two third period goals, this one at the 1:21 mark to extend North Dakota’s lead to 3-1. The goal came as a result of a bad turnover by Quinnipiac. Sophomore Nick Schmaltz (CHI) and Boeser drew the assists.
Just over two minutes later at 3:41, Caggiula struck again to make it 4-1 for North Dakota when he put home a nice feed from Boeser. Junior Paul LaDue (LAK) drew the other assist.
Sophomore Austin Poganski (STL) put the frosting on the cake for North Dakota at 10:41 to make it 5-1 when he put in a rebound given up by Garteig. Freshman Rhett Gardner and Ausmus were credited with the assists.
“CBS” line is story of the game
North Dakota’s dynamic “CBS” line of senior Drake Caggiula, sophomore Nick Schmaltz and freshman Brock Boeser had a hand in four of the team’s five goals. Collectively, the trio amassed an impressive seven points (three goals, four assists) in the game. Not surprisingly, Caggiula was named the tournament MVP after racking up a combined five points (four goals, one assist) in North Dakota’s two Frozen Four games.
Johnson misses Championship game
Junior Luke Johnson (CHI), who had been an integral part of North Dakota’s success this season, was out of the lineup on Saturday night due to an injury he suffered in the semi-final game vs. Denver. Senior Colten St. Clair was pressed into service to fill Johnson’s spot.
North Dakota senior winger Drake Caggiula and junior defenseman Troy Stecher are both very high on the wish lists of NHL teams. One or both could be snapped up as early as Sunday or Monday.
From Quinnipiac, several NHL teams are eyeing senior goaltender Michael Garteig and junior forward Tim Clifton as free agent targets.
With the 2015-16 NCAA season now over, there are several prospects that could potentially opt to forego the remainder of their collegiate eligibility to sign pro contracts.
Among those from North Dakota include freshman Brock Boeser (VAN) and sophomore Nick Schmaltz (CHI).
Quinnipiac’s only NHL prospects in junior defensemen Devon Toews (NYI) and Connor Clifton (ARI) could also be flight risks, as well.
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