The 2016 NCAA Division I men's hockey championship is set.
The Quinnipiac Bobcats will play the North Dakota Fighting Hawks for the NCAA title on Saturday after a thrilling Thursday of Frozen Four action.
Quinnipiac will be competing for their first-ever national title in their second title game appearance in the last four years. Quinnipiac fell to Yale in the 2012-13 season championship game. North Dakota, on the other hand, will be competing for their eighth national title and their first since 2000.
Quinnipiac punched their title game ticket first on Thursday with a win over perennial title contenders Boston College. In some ways, Qunnipiac rode their strong first period to the final round.
The Bobcats' quick start set the Eagles back on their heels, forcing them into mistakes the veteran group otherwise wouldn't have made. Goals from Kevin McKernan and Andrew Taverner gave Quinnipiac an early 2-0 lead after one period.
But Boston College began to fight back, narrowing the deficit to one goal with a score from Alex Tuch just 23 seconds into the second period. Three minutes later and that two-goal lead was restored thanks to a Quinnipiac goal from Landon Smith.
Boston College had five power plays in the game and failed to score on all but one of them. Quinnipiac's superb penalty killing proved to be the difference, because Ryan Fitzgerald's third period goal with five minutes left could have been either the game-winner or tying goal. Instead, it was too little, too late and Quinnpiac escaped with a 3-2 win and a national title game berth.
North Dakota looked like they were going to cruise to the title game for a long stretch in their Frozen Four game against Denver.
Not that they were outplaying the Pioneers; the game was largely even until the Fighting Hawks broke open the scoring in the second period. As he has all tournament, Drake Caggiula made big plays when his team needed an advantage the most. He scored seconds into the second period and followed up with another tally a few minutes later to stake North Dakota to a 2-0 lead.
Denver's comeback began in the third. The Pioneers had spent the first few games of the tournament blowing out their opponents; they had to learn how to mount a comeback on the fly. But Will Butcher got it started with a goal two minutes into the third period, followed thereafter by a game-tying goal by Matt VanHooris with ten minutes left in regulation.
The final dagger wouldn't come until 56.8 seconds remained on the clock. North Dakota won a faceoff in the offensive zone, and Brock Boeser fired a shot that Nick Schmaltz buried for the game-winning goal and a dramatic 4-2 win (after a subsequent empty-net goal.
The Frozen Four is over, and here's the bracket from the NCAA:
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