Quinnipiac Looks for Redemption in Title Game

North Dakota and Quinnipiac meet for the second consecutive year in the NCAA tournament (Photo Prout)

North Dakota and Quinnipiac meet for the second consecutive year in the NCAA tournament (Photo Prout)

Entering the Frozen Four, the odds makers had North Dakota 7-5 odds to win the national title and Quinnipiac 12-5. Don’t tell the Bobcats they are underdogs as they enter the title game confident and looking for redemption following a 4-0 loss in the championship game to Yale University in the 2012-13 final. They square off on Saturday evening vs North Dakota, a team that made fairly quick work of the Bobcats in the West Regional in Fargo, ND last March. The Bobcats fell behind 3-0 midway through the contest and were never quite able to get themselves back into the game falling 4-1 to end their season.

There are many similarities between these squads as they enter the finale at Amalie Arena in Tampa. North Dakota returns 12 players from that last meeting and Quinnipiac returns 16 veterans. All 5 scorers from last years regionals return including Poolman, Caggiula, Chyzyk and Johnson (North Dakota) and Taverner (Quinnipiac). However, it appears Johnson will be out for the championship game. In goal, Michael Garteig returns a much more confident and battle tested goaltender for the Bobcats. The Fighting Hawks starter last time around, Zane McIntyre, moved on signing a professional contract following the season and was replaced by Cam Johnson, a sophomore and his backup in 2014-15. Johnson has been more than adequate as his replacement eclipsing both his GAA (1.68 vs 2.05) and SV% (.933 vs .929).  Seniors Drake Caggiula (49 points) and Travis St. Denis (48 points) both carry offensive leadership into this final and can be game breakers. Caggiula showed that with his two goals vs Denver and St. Denis with a two-assist game vs Bostn College. St. Denis can be an ornery, disruptive and feisty on-ice player and is deadly on the man-advantage with 10 PPG this season. Caggiula, on the other hand plays a finesse, skilled game without fear in attacking the net. Similar to last years tourney, the Bobcats top offensive performer,Sam Anas is banged up and won’t be fully effective. It was a factor in the West Regional in Fargo and certainly a concern in this game.

Both teams rank high in nearly all statistical categories and are more potent on offense vs last years teams. The Bobcats offense ranks 4th in the country at 3.86 GPG and has produced 52% more points than last year and has scored 16 more power play goals. North Dakota has seen improvement as well with a 14% improvement in points and an offense that is ranked 6th in the country. Both teams are solid defensively and on the penalty kill but the one area the Bobcats have superior numbers is on the man-advantage with a 27.54 success rate vs North Dakota’s 19.38%.

The Bobcats played an impressive game on Thursday vs Boston College getting an early lead and clamping down on an explosive Boston College offense that began to get its wheels towards the end of the game. North Dakota appeared to have a commanding lead and momentum in their game vs Denver but suddenly found themselves knotted at 2-2 in the third with all appearances the game was heading to overtime. However, an outstanding play off a face-off by Brock Boesser with less than a minute to play allowed Nick Schmaltz to score the game-winner in regulation.

This should be an outstanding game between two teams that are explosive offensively and stingy defensively. With 17 upperclassmen and a group of seniors bent on getting some redemption after their loss in 2013 title game, I have to give the Bobcats the edge in experience. North Dakota may have the strongest group of defensemen in the Frozen Four and a first line that has to be stopped if Quinnipiac is to have success on Saturday evening. North Dakota has to stay out of penalty trouble or the Bobcats will torch them with their potent power play. Both goaltenders are difficult to beat making every grade A opportunity important. The Bobcats get last change as the home team and that’s another advantage in game strategy.

Caggiula is a player to count on in big games as is St. Denis for Quinnipiac. The Bobcats are a well-rounded team that excels in every phase of the game. They’ve lost one road game all season and are a perfect 6-0-0 on neutral ice. This will be another close game in the 2016 Frozen Four. It would be quite an accomplishment for UND coach Brad Berry to win the national title in his first season as head coach. Nevertheless, my money is on the Bobcats in this one. They are my team of destiny this year and I predict a one-goal win for the Bobcats. .

“You can’t take anything for granted- we have to seize the opportunity” said Bobcat goaltender Michael Garteig.

Enjoy the game.

 

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