Quinnipiac’s David will challenge North Dakota’s Goliath today for NCAA Division I men’s hockey supremacy as the Frozen Four has become a one-game, winner-take-all confrontation.
Although the Bobcats are in their second championship game in the past four years, they have never won the national title. Conversely, the mighty Fighting Hawks are competing for their eighth championship, albeit their first in 16 years.
Here’s how the field narrowed to just two finalists.
In semi-finals Thursday, the Quinnipiac squad from Connecticut held on for a 3-2 victory over its big-city rival from Boston College and North Dakota subdued the Denver Pioneers 4-2.
The Eagles from BU would have fared better if they hadn’t failed to score in five opportunities against the Bobcats’ stifling penalty-killing.
After first-period goals by Kevin McKernan and Andrew Taverner, Alex Tuch cut Quinnipiac’s lead in half just 23 seconds into the middle frame only to watch Landon Smith deflate the BU bench by restoring a two-goal margin only three minutes later. Ryan Fitzgerald’s goal with five minutes remaining gave the Eagles hope, but BU could not equalize.
In the other semi-final, big-play senior forward Drake Caggiula gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead by himself. While undersized, he will get serious interest from NHL teams once his university hockey career ends tonight.
Although third-period goals by Will Butcher and Matt VanHooris tied the score, Chicago Blackhawk first-rounder Nick Schmaltz converted a rebound from Vancouver Canuck first-rounder Brock Boeser for the dramatic winning goal with 56.8 seconds on the clock, and North Dakota sealed the deal with an empty-netter.
The CBS Line of Schmaltz, Boeser and Caggiula has shone throughout the tournament.
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Although he couldn’t lift Boston College into the Frozen Four final, Thatcher Demko capped a sensational junior season by winning the Mike Richter Award on Friday night as the NCAA’s top goalie.
Demko, who received the award from Richter himself, set a Boston College single-season record with 10 shutouts and is tied for second in college hockey history. He was drafted in the second round (36th overall) by Vancouver in 2014, a pick that should pay off big time for the rebuilding Canucks.
The New York Islanders, who traded up from the second round (35th overall) to take controversial, outspoken forward Josh Ho-Sang 28th overall, might regret not choosing Demko with their second first-round pick. Islander GM Garth Snow, a former goalie, chose to draft multiple netminders with later-round selections, hoping that one of them emerges as a bonafide starter to replace Jaroslav Halak.
Meanwhile, back at the NCAA hockey awards, Harvard senior Jimmy Vesey received the Hobey Baker Award, topping Demko and Michigan U freshman wunderkind Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets) for college hockey’s top individual honor.
To nobody’s surprise, Connor took the Tim Taylor Award as the top rookie after leading the NCAA with 71 points in 38 games, helped by a 27-game point streak.
The Canucks and Jets cannot wait to get Demko and Connor into NHL uniforms, although Winnipeg will obviously have to wait a bit for Connor. Nashville will have to wait quite awhile longer for Vesey. Drafted by the Predators in the third round of the 2012 draft, he said he won't report to them and will become a free agent Aug. 15. After the season he's just had, he clearly hopes to get more than third-round interest.
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In addition to their prestigious individual awards, Vesey, Demko and Connor were named All-Americans.
East First Team
*G Alex Lyon (PHI), junior, Yale University; D Matt Grzelcyk (BOS), senior, Boston University; D Jake Walman (STL), sophomore, Providence College; F Sam Anas, junior, Quinnipiac University;
*F Andrew Poturalski (CAR), sophomore, University of New Hampshire; F Jimmy Vesey (NSH), senior, Harvard University.
East Second Team
G Thatcher Demko (VAN), junior, Boston College; D Gavin Bayreuther, junior, St. Lawrence University; D Rob O’Gara (BOS), senior, Yale University; F Ryan Fitzgerald (BOS), junior, Boston College; F Mark Jankowski (CGY), senior, Providence College; F Danny O’Regan (SJS), senior, Boston University.
West First Team
*G Charlie Lindgren (MTL), junior, St. Cloud State University; *D Ethan Prow (PIT), senior, St. Cloud State University; D Zach Werenski (CBJ), sophomore, University of Michigan; F Brock Boeser (VAN), freshman, University of North Dakota; F Kyle Connor (WPG), freshman, University of Michigan; F Tyler Motte (CHI), junior, University of Michigan.
West Second Team
G Cam Johnson, sophomore, University of North Dakota; D Will Butcher (COL), junior, University of Denver; D Troy Stecher, junior, University of North Dakota; F Drake Caggiula, senior, University of North Dakota; F J.T. Compher (COL), junior, University of Michigan; F Alex Petan, senior, Michigan Tech University.
* Player was recently signed as a free agent by NHL team in parentheses.
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The Guelph Storm drafted an offensive right-shooting blueliner first overall Friday to begin the Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft.
Ryan Merkley is a 5-11, 160-pound fleet-footed skater with excellent on-ice vision who excels at passing. In his second season of minor midget hockey, Merkley captained the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, accumulating seven goals, 37 assists and 58 PIMs in 33 games. Credited with uncanny instincts, the native of Mississauga in Greater Toronto is described as someone who makes other players better.
The draft concludes today.
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