Hawks end 16-year title drought

The Fighting Hawks celebrate their NCAA Championship victory. Photos by Rusell Hons/Russell Hons Photography

From residence halls to Joe Blacks, UND fans celebrated late into the night that their school had just won the NCAA National Championship for the first time in 16 years.

The Fighting Hawks were able to dismantle No. 1 seed Quinnipiac and win their eighth national title by a score of 5-1.

“It’s long overdue,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “I’m glad finally we can do that. I’m glad we didn’t disappoint our fans that were in the stands tonight. We had a whole slug of them there, and I’m glad we came through for them.”

While the score suggests a dominant victory for the Hawks, the game did not start out as such.

In the first period, the game was an even affair as both teams were motivated and trading blows. Early on, it showed why the Bobcats were one of the best hockey teams in the nation.

“First of all, I want to congratulate Rand Pecknold and his team from Quinnipiac,” Berry said. “Tremendous year. Set a lot of goals in front of them and they attained an unbelievable year as far as getting to the Frozen Four here again.”

But the game started to shift mid-way through the first as the Hawks started to take advantage of their scoring opportunities.

At 11:56 into the game, UND captain Gage Ausmus launched a wrist shot from the blue-line that got pinned under Bobcat goaltender Michael Garteig’s pad. UND freshman Shane Gersich was able to dig the puck out of the pads and put it in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first, Quinnipiac went on a power play, which usually spells disaster for the opposing team as the Bobcats are one of the top teams in the nation with an extra skater.

Instead, freshman phenom Brock Boeser was able to score a short-handed goal on a basically wide-open net after Garteig flipped the puck right to him for a 2-0 UND lead.

“He’s been a special player for us all season long,” UND forward Drake Caggiula said. “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.”

Quinnipiac was not going down without a fight. With around a minute left in the first period, Bobcat defenseman Tim Clifton was able to blow the puck by Johnson’s stick on a five-on-three power play to cut the lead in half.

In the second period, both teams continued to skate hard and had ample opportunities to find the back of the net. Both UND and Quinnipiac had a power play opportunity and a sequence of four-on-four hockey in the second, but were unable to score.

With 20 minutes to go, tensions were still high as the game was a one-score game.

Cagguila made sure that did not last very long.

The senior was able to give UND a little more breathing room after a goal off a beautiful pass from fellow line mate Nick Schmaltz to put the Hawks up 3-1.

“During the intermission we talked about keeping the foot on the gas,” Caggiula said. “We came out and I think we put the gas full throttle there. We wanted to get the next goal. We wanted to push back and make it as hard for them as possible.”

The soon-to-be NHL free agent wasn’t done yet.

Cagguila scored his second goal of the game after Boeser found him all alone with a spinning pass to ultimately put the game out of reach at 4-1.

To put the exclamation point on the championship game, UND forward Austin Poganski scored off the rebound for a 5-1 final score.

From there, the party was on as cheers could be heard from every corner of Grand Forks to the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.

The phrase ‘Raise Eight’ had become a reality as UND had become national champions for the first time in a very long time.

“You know this trophy’s bigger than just for our team,” Johnson said. “It’s for the whole community, for the whole North Dakota community.”

Alex Stadnik is the sports editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]