TAMPA, Fla. — CBS may bill itself as “America’s Most Watched Network,” but on Saturday night in Tampa, it was the CBS Line that had eyeballs bulging out of people’s heads.
Drake Caggiula (two goals), Brock Boeser (goal, three assists) and Nick Schmaltz (assist) — the so-called CBS Line for North Dakota — were the dominating forces as the Fighting Hawks beat Quinnipiac 5-1 at Amalie Arena to capture the program’s eighth national title and first since 2000.
2016 Frozen Four
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“They’re really good. I don’t like to put it any other way,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said of the CBS trio. “That line’s special. We haven’t seen a line as good as that all season. And we’ve played against some good ones.
“They’re high-end NHL talent. They’re honest. They compete. They win battles. It’s a pretty special combination of ability there.”
With the Fighting Hawks clinging to a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes, Caggiula, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, took the game over early in the third, scoring twice in 2:20 to blow the game open.
“During the [second] intermission, we talked about keeping the foot on the gas. We came out and I think we put the gas full throttle there,” said Caggiula. “We wanted to get the next goal. We wanted to push back and make it as hard for them as possible.
“We got two early goals there. From there, we just kept rolling and rolling; we had the momentum.”
North Dakota jumped out to an early two-goal lead by doing what its opponent, Quinnipiac, is best known for: relentless puck pursuit.
Shane Gersich poked home a rebound of a Gage Ausmus shot, beating his man to the puck and lifting it over Michael Garteig’s (31 saves) left pad at 11:56.
The Bobcats looked to have a chance to even the game when Paul LaDue was whistled for tripping at 13:19, but a misplay of a puck by Garteig left Boeser with an open net to score short-handed at 14:16.
With all of the momentum and domination over the first 18 minutes, North Dakota shot itself in the foot late in the first, taking two minor penalties in a nine-second span. After that, it took the Bobcats just three seconds for Tim Clifton to bury a feed from his brother Connor at 18:53 of the first.
Neither team got on the board in the second, although each had chances. Caggiula was stopped on a breakaway for North Dakota at 4:22, while Bobcats standout Sam Anas beat North Dakota goaltender Cam Johnson (32 saves) but rang his shot off the right post at 7:13.
After Caggiula potted the two game-changing tallies early in the third, Austin Poganski closed the scoring at 10:41 with his 10th goal of the season, allowing chants of “Let’s Go Sioux” and “Sioux Forever” — referring to the Fighting Hawks’ former nickname — to rain down from the Kelly green-clad crowd.
“It feels great,” said North Dakota coach Brad Berry, the first rookie head coach to win a national title. “We openly talk about winning championships and trying to be the best that we can be every single day.
“As much as this group is going to enjoy it, I think the city of Grand Forks, the state of North Dakota, the University of North Dakota, the athletic department, the Ralph Engelstad family, they’ll all enjoy it. It’s long overdue.”