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Caggiula scores twice, North Dakota wins Frozen Four

Tournament's Most Outstanding Player returned for senior year to earn NCAA championship

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- North Dakota center Drake Caggiula had the puck on his stick and a chance at a hat trick with less than six minutes left in the Frozen Four National Championship game against Quinnipiac at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Caggiula was lined up at the right circle with a clean shot but decided to back off. As far as the senior was concerned, he did enough during his two games in Tampa to answer any questions about his talent level.

Still, his teammates were a little disappointed.

"My linemates gave me some crap for that one," Caggiula said. "They said, 'Make sure you score for the hat trick.' And I saw [Brock] Boeser there, and I wanted to get him a goal, but I probably should have shot that one."

Few will remember Caggiula passing up a chance at a hat trick but many will remember his two goals early in the third period that secured a 5-1 win for the Fighting Hawks and the program's eighth national championship.

Caggiula, who also had two goals in the 3-2 semifinal win against Denver, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. His first goal in the championship game came at 1:21 of the third period when he was was looking for open space in the slot while Boeser held off two defensemen after winning a puck on the forecheck. Nick Schmaltz provided some relief for Boeser, collected the puck and found Caggiula, who scored on a one-timer to give North Dakota a 3-1 lead.

Caggiula wasted little time scoring again.

Boeser seemed to have a clear breakaway after taking a long outlet pass from defenseman Paul LaDue, a Los Angeles Kings prospect. However, Quinnipiac's defense caught up to Boeser and he drifted to the right but Caggiula was trailing the play and Boeser set him up for another one-timer at 3:41 of the third.

"Our line always says the third period has got to be the best period, whether we're up or down, we need to keep pushing and pushing," Caggiula said. "And our line always talks about our third period's our best period. And I think we take pride in that, and that's why you can see our third-period results."

The CBS line of Caggiula, Boeser and Schmaltz combined for six goals and seven assists in the semifinal and championship games. Boeser had a shorthanded goal and three assists in the final.

"Drake can make huge plays and Schmaltz can make huge plays," Boeser said. "Drake is a tremendous player and he can do anything since he's a hard worker. It was an honor playing with them."

Boeser and Schmaltz are first-round draft picks of the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks respectively, but Caggiula returned for his senior year as an undrafted free agent. With his decision to return, Caggiula chose to focus on winning a title and placed his individual goals to the side.

"Yeah, I guess every game is pretty much like a tryout [for the NHL]," Caggiula 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. 

"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 all year long. Now is the time where you can kind of sit back and think about your future."

North Dakota coach Brad Berry said that mentality should make Caggiula more attractive to pro teams.

"When you talk about maybe he should have shot for the hat trick goal or sign a pro contract here and there, it's not about that," Berry said. "It's about the team. He puts the team first. That's what makes him so successful. It just permeates through our group. If he does it, everybody else does it."

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