Friday, April 8, 2016

Quinnipiac versus North Dakota on Saturday

It’ll be North Dakota and Quinnipiac for all the Frozen Four marbles/pucks on Saturday night in the Southeast (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Quinnipiac, the top-ranked team in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey, punched its ticket to the national championship game after outlasting sixth-ranked Boston College, 3-2, at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Thursday afternoon. North Dakota then made its first final in 11 years by rebounding for a late 4-2 victory last night over National Collegiate Hockey Conference rival Denver in the nightcap.

After taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Kevin McKernan and Andrew Taverner in the first eight minutes of play, a power-play tally by Landon Smith early in the second period stood up as the game-winner for Quinnipiac (32-3-7 overall), the 2013 national runner-up. BC (28-8-5) got goals from Alex Tuch and Ryan Fitzgerald (PPG) in playing catch-up, but couldn’t get the equalizer despite outshooting the Bobcats, 36-30. The Eagles came up short when Michael Garteig (34 saves) got a glove on Ian McCoshen’s right-side blast with less than five seconds remaining in regulation.

Third-ranked North Dakota (33-6-4) jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of second-period goals by Drake Caggiula, only to watch as the seventh-ranked Pioneers (25-10-6) tied the game in the third period on tallies eight minutes apart by blueliners Will Butcher and Matt VanVoorhis. Nick Schmaltz’s backhander in front with 57 seconds left won it for the Fighting Hawks, as did 21 saves by Cam Johnson, while Rhett Gardner iced affairs by flipping the puck the length of the ice and into an empty Denver net with two seconds left.

The Bobcats and Fighting Hawks have met just three times in all, with UND winning all three games. The Fighting Hawks defeated Quinnipiac, 4-1, at the 2015 NCAA West Regional in Fargo, N.D. in their most recent get-together. UND is seeking its eighth NCAA championship, and first since 2000, while Quinnipiac is looking for the first national title in program history.

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