After a drought of 16 years, North Dakota is back on top.
The Fighting Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period on Saturday night’s NCAA championship game and held on for a 5-1 victory over the Quinnipiac Bobcats for the program’s eighth ever hockey championship. Drake Caggiula scored two goals to lead the way for North Dakota, closing out a terrific tournament for the top prospect.
“It’s a special night not only for us, but for all the people that have put work into the program, all the guys that have played before us, all the coaches that came before us, and anyone that’s helped build this program up to where it is now.” said Caggiula to the media after the game. The senior will now become an NHL free agent after going undrafted.
Quinnipiac remains without a national title in the history of the program, while North Dakota finally returned to its dominant form. With their eight ever titles, the Fighting Hawks rank just behind Michigan’s nine for the most all time.
Momentum was swung in the favor of North Dakota in the first period when, holding onto a 1-0 lead already, Brock Boeser scored as Quinnipiac goaltender Michael Garteig was too aggressive outside of his crease.
The Bobcats were able to get on the board late in the first period when given a 5-on-3 opportunity. Sam Anas, the team’s top scorer battling injury, took a hard hit and had to go to the locker room. Quinnipiac was able to score and cut the lead in half going into the second frame.
North Dakota was 27-0-3 leading after two periods, and they held onto the 2-1 lead going into the third period before the “CBS” line exploded. Caggiula scored twice, on helpers from his linemate Boeser and Nick Schmaltz. Before long, the score was 4-1, and an empty netter sealed the 5-1 final score.
Quinnipiac, who had just three regulation losses all season, struggled with injuries throughout the playoffs, but they were more prominent than ever in the final game. Anas was in and out of the locker room several times, and was noticeably wincing when hit and avoiding puck battles in the corners.
Brad Berry, who replaced Dave Harkstol after 16 years, is the first division one head hockey coach to win a national title in his first season behind the bench. After losing Harkstol, and All-American goalie Zane McIntyre, the Fighting Hawks had plenty of questions going into 2016.
After defeating the top seeded team in the national championship game, those questions have been more than answered.