GREATEST MOMENTS | North Dakota netted eighth NCAA hockey title this year


Sure, North Dakota’s 1987 NCAA championship hockey team reached the final four of’s greatest teams in Frozen Four history. This year, on April 10, North Dakota won its first national championship since 2000 and eighth overall. Only Michigan, with nine, has won more. ASN was in Tampa to witness the sports moment judged the greatest in North Dakota history.

North-Dakota-greatest-1North Dakota’s Drake Caggiula promised his parents he would return for his senior year and get his degree in kinesiology.

Fitting, since Caggiula is himself a study in kinesiology. The principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement.

More simply, human highlight reel.

The senior forward scored twice Saturday night for his third and fourth goals of the Frozen Four as North Dakota overwhelmed Quinnipiac 5-1 to win its first national championship since 2000.

“It’s a special night not only for us but for all the people that have put work into the program, all the guys that have played before us, all the coaches that came before us, and anyone that’s helped build this program up to where it is now,” said Caggiula, who was selected the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

“It’s not just for this team, it’s for all those people. It’s for all those fans. It’s a 16-year drought, but it’s finally coming back to North Dakota. And it’s a special feeling, not just for our team, but it’s a special feeling for everyone that follows our team.”

Both of Caggiula’s goals were assisted by freshman Brock Boeser, who had another assist and scored a goal for the Fighting Hawks, though North Dakotans still call them Sioux.

“He’s been a special player for us all season long,” 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.”

Caggiula, Boeser and Nick Schmaltz comprised the CBS Line, UND’s first trio of 40-point scorers since 2011-12 with Brock Nelson (47), Danny Kristo (45) and Corban Knight (40).

The CBS Line combined for 41 points in eight postseason games, including six goals and seven assists in two Frozen Four games, including Schmaltz’s game-winning goal against Denver on Thursday night that sent UND to the title game.

Two of Caggiula’s linemates have been drafted by NHL teams, but not Caggiula. He will be an undrafted free agent, fueling the 5-9 late-bloomer’s drive to improve. (Update: Caggiula signed a two-year deal with Edmonton worth $1.3 million earlier this summer.)

Yeah, I guess every game is pretty much like a tryout,” he said. “You’ve got to go out there and prove yourself, but at the same time that’s separate from what you’re doing here. It’s on the side — you worry about your team, you worry about what the main goal is, and the main goal is to win a national championship.

“I haven’t once all season long thought about where I wanted to sign or anything else. I focused on these guys right here next to me and the guys in the locker room. That’s the main focus. It’s been that way all year long. Now is the time where you can kind of sit back and think about your future.

“But while you’re at school, while you’re with this program, you only think about this program. And it’s a special place. I can see it in everyone. It’s not just me. It’s everyone that’s part of this program, they focus on the program only and the task at hand.”

For this task, said first-year UND coach Brad Berry, “I think we caught fire. We knew the recipe for success was to stay out of the penalty box, make sure we play a 200-foot game and grind them down a little bit low.”

Boeser made an early play that grinded on Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig. With Quinnipiac on a power play and Boeser chasing a puck in the Bobcats’ zone, Garteig came out of the net to clear the puck. Instead, the puck bounced off Garteig’s stick  toward Boeser on the left side of what was now an empty net for an easy goal at 14:16 of the first period.

“I’d rather prefer not to talk about it, thank you,” Garteig said.

Caggiula’s quick goals in the third period, at 1:21 and 3:41 on a spectacular breakaway, snuffed any hopes of a Quinnipiac comeback. Austin Poganski’s goal at 10:41 of third iced the game and the title, as Berry became the first first-year Division I men’s hockey coach to win a national championship.

“I think what North Dakota showed tonight is they were the better team,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “Doesn’t mean we couldn’t beat them. But that’s the best team in college hockey.”

A classic study of kinesiology on skates.

University of North Dakota Letterwinners Association Hall of Fame

On the cover: North Dakota’s 2016 NCAA champions. (Courtesy Tom Layberger)

Monday: New Mexico State and New Orleans
Tuesday: Nicholls and UNC Asheville
Wednesday: UNC Greensboro and UNC Wilmington
Thursday: North Dakota and Northeastern
Friday: Northern Illinois and Northern Kentucky

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.