TAMPA—– The Quinnipiac Bobcats had never won against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in three previous meetings, and were in search of that first victory at the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship on Saturday. It wasn’t meant to be, as a lackluster Bobcat performance was met by the opportunistic Hawks, who soundly defeated the Bobcats 5-1.
“I want to congratulate North Dakota,” said Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold. “I thought they were outstanding tonight. Berry and his staff did a great job getting them ready. 12, 13 draft picks. Four All-Americans. I mean, just the talent package that they have, the most talented team in the country and they compete. It’s a really good formula for success. It’s pretty impressive. And they gave us a lot and we just couldn’t handle it tonight.”
The Bobcats had a slow start, with only one shot in the first five minutes. The lack of offense and possession accommodated North Dakota and allowed the Hawks to score first, a four-on-four goal by freshman Shane Gersich at 11:56 of the first period.
While on the first power play of the night, the Bobcats had a defensive breakdown, failing to clear their defensive zone, which allowed Hawks freshman Brock Boeser to score a short-handed goal, the game’s second, on an essentially empty net. The Bobcats could only muster two shots on that power play.
“[Boeser has] been a special player for us all season long,” said Hawks senior Drake Caggiula. “And big players come through in big games. And he definitely stepped up today. He’s a hell of a player, hell of a kid. And it was an honor to play on his line all season long. He makes things happen out there and he definitely took charge today.”
Late in the first period, the Hawks were called for two penalties nine seconds apart, giving the Bobcats a 5-on-3 power play. Junior Tim Clifton took advantage of the situation and scored Quinnipiac’s first goal of the game with under three minutes to play in the first period with one of the assists going to his brother Connor.
“I thought we got into some penalty trouble in the first part of the game,” said Hawks coach Brad Berry. “That’s tough. Gets you out of momentum, gotta kill penalties in a great power play in Quinnipiac. And our guys stuck with it. They dug in, found a way to get through it.”
Each team had nine shots in a scoreless second frame. Even though there was no change in the score, there was some extremely exciting moments especially when four of North Dakota’s shots came on a power play about midway through the period. Both teams showed why they belonged in the Frozen Four Championship with both goalies, Johnson for UND and Gartieg for Quinnipiac, coming up with tremendous saves to nullify excellent scoring chances.
In period three, Quinnipiac had another lapse on defense allowing an unmarked Caggiula to score North Dakota’s third goal of the game. Almost two minutes later, the Hawks went up 4-1 when Caggiula scored his second goal of the game and his fourth of the Frozen Four, deservedly earning the Most Outstanding Performer award for the tournament.
“It may be an individual award but you don’t win it by yourself,” said Caggiula. “My teammates have been there. All four years. It’s not just this year. It’s been four years. They’ve helped me grow as a person and as a player. And to win that award, it’s a special thing for me, but I couldn’t be there without my teammates and my coaches and family and all my friends, whoever supports me. So it’s an individual award, but at the same time it’s from everyone else as well.”
Thursday’s game against Boston College was a grueling win for the Bobcats with the outcome not being decided until a specular glove save by Gartieg in the final seconds to preserve a 3-2 victory. Saturday, Quinnipiac seemed to still be recovering from the face off, and as the game wore on, the Bobcats wore out as UND never lost an opportunity to finish a check in the first two periods. That paid dividends in the third period as the play of the Bobcats was mostly uninspired, most probably due to fatigue, and it showed as they allowed the Hawks to pull away from them with three unanswered goals.
GAME NOTES – Announced attendance was 19,358, the third highest for a Frozen Four final…Next year’s NCAA Frozen Four will be at the United Center in Chicago in April 6-8, 2017, hosted by the University of Notre Dame… Defenseman freshman Chase Priskie, the only Florida player on the Quinnipiac roster, had two shots in the semifinal versus Boston College and two versus North Dakota.
NCAA Awards announced Friday: Air Force’s Chris Dylewski was chosen as the 2016 Hockey Humanitarian Award recipient…Thatcher Demko of Boston College was named winner of 2016 Mike Richter Award as the top goaltender in college hockey…Harvard senior forward Jimmy Vesey won the 2016 Hobey Baker Award on Friday as the top player in college hockey.
Frozen Four All-Tournament Team
G: Cam Johnson, North Dakota
D: Connor Clifton, Quinnipiac
D: Troy Stecher, North Dakota
F: Travis St. Denis, Quinnipiac
F: Brock Boeser, North Dakota
F: Drake Caggiula, North Dakota
Most Outstanding Performer – Drake Caggiula, North Dakota
By Carlos Rosaly & Leo Haggerty