TAMPA, Fla. — When Drake Caggiula scored twice in the Frozen Four semifinal contest and then added another two in the championship game to earn Most Outstanding Player honors, it should have come as no surprise to anyone. The North Dakota senior has been doing it all season long.
He recorded points in 31 of 39 games with an even more impressive 13-game streak to close out the season and, not coincidentally, a North Dakota national championship. Going into the Frozen Four, he had set a school record with a plus-minus of plus-41, then added another plus-5 to the total.
“We’ve had to rely on him this year,” linemate Brock Boeser said. “We definitely did this tournament.”
And Caggiula delivered.
His two goals against Denver in the semifinals staked North Dakota to an early lead, albeit one that eventually was erased. The dramatic game-winning goal was scored by linemate Nick Schmaltz, one that Caggiula set up.
In the title game, North Dakota held a 2-1 lead going into the third period, but arguably Quinnipiac had stolen much of the momentum, 20 minutes away from euphoria or agony. Caggiula struck at the 1:21 mark and then drove the decisive nail in the coffin barely more than two minutes later.
“It just goes to show he’s a big-time player,” Schmaltz said. “The type of style he plays really shows in the playoffs. His hardness and his compete [level] is undeniable. No matter what, he’s going to come out and play hard, whether things are going his way or not. He’s always going to find a way to help out the team some way.
“He made some big-time plays tonight.”
Not to sound like a broken record, but Caggiula has done that all year. He recorded 22 of his 51 points in the third period.
“Being a senior, it’s my job to lead,” he said. “All season long, my line has just been trying to drive the bus and lead in the right direction.
“Our line always says the third period has got to be our best period. Whether we’re up or down, we need to keep pushing and pushing. We take pride in that, and that’s why you can see our third-period results.”
Caggiula was quick to spread the glory of winning the Most Outstanding Player award to his linemates Boeser and Schmaltz on the famed CBS Line, as well as the rest of his teammates and coaches.
“It may be an individual award, but you don’t win it by yourself,” Caggiula said. “My teammates have been there. All four years, not just this year. They’ve helped me grow as a person and as a player.
“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.
That mindset is what has produced all of Caggiula’s results, according to North Dakota coach Brad Berry.
“He puts the team first,” Berry said. “That’s what makes him so successful. It just permeates through our group. If he does it, everybody else does it.
“He’s a great young man. I’m extremely proud of him, and I’m going to sadly miss him out of our program here. But he’ll always be a part of the family.”
A part of the family that helped bring an eighth national championship to North Dakota.