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The first semifinal featured the Quinnipiac Bobcats and the Boston College Eagles with the Bobcats beating the Eagles in their first-ever meeting by a score of 3-2.

Quinnipiac wasted no time getting on the board as sophomore Kevin McKernan scored the game’s first goal at 2:31 of the first period. Sophomore Andrew Taverner added a second Bobcat goal about five minutes later as the Bobcats were well in control of the first period.

“They just came out — they just came out faster than us. There’s no other way to explain it,” said Eagles Captain senior Teddy Doherty. “Two goals in the first ten minutes. Unacceptable. And ultimately cost the game. There’s no other rhyme or reason about it. Heck of a team they have over there, though.”

The second period started out much differently for Boston College, as sophomore Alex Tuch scored the Eagles first goal of the game 23 seconds into the period (the fastest goal to open a period since 2007). In fact, the Bobcats did not have a shot until 4:32 into the second period when sophomore Landon Smith scored a power play goal to put Quinnipiac up by two goals once again. Smith’s goal proved to be the game-winner.

“Landon’s had a great year,” said Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold. “Landon’s points are probably lower than what he does for us. He scores a lot of goals for us, where he’s the net front screen and doesn’t get the goalie assist but he’s the guy, the reason we scored.”

Boston College had their own power play goal when junior Ryan Fitzgerald scored for the Eagles with 4:16 left in the third period to bring them within one. The Eagles played with an empty net for the last 1:37 of regulation and had six shots while skating with the extra man but could not get the puck past Bobcat senior goaltender Michael Garteig.

“He’s a winner. Great battle mode,” said Pecknold. “Going head to head with all the top goalies in the country, [he] finds a way to win. That’s what he’s done. He’s done it for us for three years. He did it in junior hockey. Great competitor. Great battle mode and really happy for him. Happy with what he did at the net tonight. He was great.”

“I thought Quinnipiac played very well,” said Boston College coach Jerry York. “Certainly a team worthy of playing for a National Championship Saturday night. So I thought they were hard. They were gritty. They got good goaltending. I think Rand has an excellent team there. Having said that, I think our club, we started a bit slow tonight, down 2-0 early. And even though when it was 3-1, I thought we’re built to come back and we really played well, I thought, the third period. Got it to 3-2, goaltender pulled, I thought we had two really exceptional chances to score that the kid [Garteig] made unbelievable saves on. One was low to his pad on the left side, and then when Ian put all the wood on it [with] four to five seconds left, he made a terrific glove save in the top and that ended our season for us.”

Bobcat junior Tim Clifton ran into a little bit of penalty trouble accumulating six penalty minutes on three penalties.

“Timmy needs to be more under control,” said Pecknold. “He was good tonight outside those three penalties. His compete level was fantastic. Off the charts. He’s a big leader for us and a big reason why we win.”

The second semifinal featured the Denver Pioneers and the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, meeting for the sixth time this season. In what turned out to be an exciting matchup, North Dakota came out on top, defeating Denver 4-2.

Neither team dominated the first period. Both teams combined for eight shots in the opening act. The dearth of shots taken in the first period may have been due to neither team wanting to be the one to make the first mistake.

In the second period, North Dakota played with more intensity, and finally, at 1:03 into the second period, the Hawks broke the scoreless tie. North Dakota senior Drake Caggiula scored the first goal and added a second one about five minutes later, putting North Dakota up 2-0.

Caggiula described his first goal. “I came off the bench, I was hiding behind some of the players in the high slot there and was able to pick a pocket out of a Denver player and made a quick move around the guy and tried to get it in the net as quick as possible. I think it went under his glove. I just tried to hide behind some of the defenders there and pick his pocket. That’s all.”

The third period was a different story for Denver. The Pioneers tied the game at 2-2 after goals by juniors Will Butcher and Matt VanVoorhis (the second goal was helped into the goal by Hawks junior Gage Ausmus’ stick).

“[Senior] Grant [Arnold] had great faceoff intensity right off the bat and just bumped the puck back. All I had to do was just put the puck in the open area, which I did,” said Butcher, describing the Pioneers scoring plays. “VanVoorhis made a great rush towards the offensive zone, and he just turned around and tried to throw one to an open guy, went off a stick and got a little bit of puck luck.”

For almost half of the third period, the scored remained tied until the final minute of the game. Hawks Sophomore Nick Schmaltz controlled the puck at the top of the crease and was able to backhand the game-winner past Pioneers sophomore goaltender Tanner Jaillet. The Hawks added an empty net goal by freshman Rhett Gardner to seal their spot in Saturday’s Championship.

“Big-time players make big-time plays. That’s what they did,” said the Hawks first-year coach Brad Berry. “They executed on the play we drew up. In practice during a week, once or twice a week, we work on faceoff plays, offensive and defensive. That was a high block play we come off the wall. A lot of teams do that play, come off the wall, you win the draw and get a puck to net. [Freshman] Brock Boeser took the draw for Nick Schmaltz. Brock’s a strong body. He won it back. Drake whiffed on the puck a bit and Brock took it back, made a great play to Nick on the backdoor. It’s guys executing, attention to detail of what we do every day in practice, and it reaped the rewards tonight because they were dialed in.”

“Our message after the second period was keep the foot on the gas,” continued Berry. “The only problem was we stopped making plays for a little bit. And I thought we started the game a little bit slow, a little tentative. And then in the second period I think the last two shifts of the first period we picked up momentum played into the rink, and in the second period we got back to making plays moving with confidence moving the puck to the north. And being two goals up, you’re playing against a good team. They’re going to make plays. The first goal on a faceoff play, they made a nice play to score. If you stop making plays, that’s what happens. It’s a learning lesson for us tonight going forward that you have to keep the foot on the gas and keep making plays.”

“It was a great college hockey game,” said Pioneers coach Jim Montgomery. “It’s what we expected. When North Dakota and Denver play, it’s great hockey. And I said two days ago that the team that’s going to win is the team that makes the last play, and North Dakota made the last play. They’re a great team, and I wish them luck.”

The North Dakota fans won the “cheer-off” by showing great enthusiasm from the moment their team was announced. The Hawks fans seemed to give their side a home team atmosphere throughout the game, especially with the rebelliousness of their shouting “Let’s go Sioux!” Fighting Sioux was officially retired as the mascot in 2012.

“Our fans are the greatest in the world,” said Caggiula. “They travel anywhere we go. And go back to our campus, the students are probably going crazy, and the faculty is probably going crazy as well. Our fans travel everywhere with us and they support us no matter what happens. We love them as much as they love us. I know it’s a special relationship, that’s for sure. And it’s certainly a lot easier playing in an atmosphere where it’s pretty much a home ice advantage.”

“We’re privileged, and with that comes with the fans and the support we get,” added senior Coltyn Sanderson. “I think there’s a slogan, every game is a home game. That was definitely true tonight. We appreciate their support. We were happy to get this done and get rid of the ghosts a little bit. We have a job to do Saturday, and we know they’ll be cheering us on.”
SEMIFINALS: GAME NOTES – The Men’s Final featuring Quinnipiac Bobcats vs. North Dakota Fighting Hawks will be played Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 8pm in Tampa…Announced attendance for semifinal #1 was 17,816, for semifinal #2 18,037…Quinnipiac’s only previous national title game appearance came in 2013 when the Bobcats fell to ECAC rival Yale, 4-0. Quinnipiac senior Travis St. Denis is the only remaining Bobcat from the 2013 NCAA Final team… North Dakota seeks its eighth NCAA title. The Fighting Hawks’ last national title game appearance came in 2005 when the Denver Pioneers downed North Dakota, 4-1. North Dakota last won the national championship in 2000, defeating Boston College, 4-2…Saturday’s championship game will be the sixth consecutive featuring a team in search of its first national title. Four of the previous five have resulted in first-time champions…Hawks coach Brad Berry looks to become the only first-year head coach to claim the NCAA national title… The Fighting Hawks are 18-0-0 when Drake Caggiula scores a goal… North Dakota has met Quinnipiac three times previously, with North Dakota winning all three contests.