The Fighting Hawks ended 16 years of frustration and upsets to become national champions once again. The University of North Dakota devastated the small school of Quinnipiac University to win the NCAA Frozen Four Championships 5-1 at Amalie Arena Saturday night. It was their eighth national title and one that many will not forget as their last.
In yet another ending to the NCAA Frozen Four championship, it became a small school’s quest to make a name for themselves taking on one of the country’s best hockey teams left standing. Quinnipiac settled in for a long haul before their 3-2 win over powerhouse Boston College landed them back into a second final since 2013. For the Fighting Hawks, being back in the final is something they haven’t done since 2005. Although they’ve been in the tournament consecutively since 2003, their attempts to end a long-standing drought came against a team who still looked for their five in four consecutive tries.
They gained an edge in the game as the Fighting Hawks were playing harder for the puck as well as knocking down the Bobcats when on possession. The shots were in favor of North Dakota taking seven while holding their opponents to just a pair. Things got physical between the teams as a collision between Quinnipiac freshman Chase Priskie and Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser behind the net set a precedent.
More hits came but getting the opening goal was still an important factor to implement. The first came from North Dakota who started with a shot from Boeser who fired from the far end corner where the rebound off Quinnipiac goaltender Michael Garteig came to Shane Gersich for him to score the puck with 12 minutes left in the game.
The Bobcats came out huge looking to even out the game and came close on several occasions. Their chances were quickly overshadowed by a mistake by Garteig who tried to assist on a bad turnover by his team. The netminder came out to try and hit the puck away from the opposition but was left watching Boeser scoring on the empty net for an easy 2-0 lead. It came while shorthanded on the play devastating the power play unit of the Bobcats. “I saw the goalie come out there and read that he was gonna shoot that way so I just got out in front of it and worked pretty well,” Boeser said to ESPN. The last five minutes went to the Fighting Hawks who had everything under control.
They looked to shutout their foes through 20 minutes but a late power for Quinnipiac left them with a chance to get on the board. A big effort by brothers Connor and Tim Clifton got great placement near the North Dakota net where a one timer by Tim went top shelf ending their woes to make a statement before the period came to a close. His brother Connor who is a Phoenix Coyotes draftee made another one on St. Louis Blues prospect Austin Poganski as he laid out the Fighting Hawks sophomore with a huge hit. The shots were much closer by the end with 16-13 in favor of North Dakota.
The second began with North Dakota coming out to work in the period but didn’t expect Quinnipiac to respond. Drake Caggiula came in on a breakaway early in the period but was robbed by Garteig who was trying everything to make up for his bad move. The Bobcats had plenty of energy to stay tight with the Fighting Hawks allowing more of a level playing field.
The quality of contention remained high on both sides as the period came closer to an end with North Dakota still leading 2-1 with four minutes left. They ended the second period with nine shots only to see that the Bobcats ripped off the same number making the third period so important to keep the one goal margin tight with just 20 minutes left determining a champion.
North Dakota made it obvious that they wanted it and proved it 1:21 into the third as a three man play with Nick Schmaltz delivering a pass to Caggiula who whiffed on the shot but somehow got a piece of it to score the go ahead that gave them a two goal buffer. It was quickly three goals out front with Caggiula scoring his second of the night with the defense setting up a brilliant play.
Paul LaDue made a great stretch pass from the North Dakota end finding Boeser in the neutral zone where he took off on a rush. Turning around he found Caggiula open firing a one timer on the goal. With 16 minutes left to play, the Fighting Hawks couldn’t lower their energy or defense as the Bobcats had plenty of time to make a difference in the game if they were allowed to.
North Dakota handled them well with goalie Cam Johnson doing work to make big stops against some of Quinnipiac’s best. They rewarded themselves with a goal on the rebound that Poganski got credit for making it near impossible for their opponents to recover from. The game ended with North Dakota slowly realizing that they were once again champions once more. “We just kept it on the gas the whole way through,” Cagguila said after the game. “From start to finish we played a full 60 minutes and we kept our game plan to perfection today.”