St. Norbert (22-3-3 Overall, 14-2-2 in NCHA)
Faced with its first weeknight NCAA tournament game in school history, St. Norbert relied on its typical stingy defense and big-game experience to down Adrian 4-3 in an opening round contest on Wednesday. The win advances the Green Knights to the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday where they will host Gustavus Adolphus, who advanced with a 3-1 win over St. Thomas.
They are a very impressive team, they really are said St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin of Adrian. You could tell they are a group thats been together three years. They really know where each other are on the ice and certainly have a high octane offense. I think they are as advertised, are a very good team and are certainly a tournament-worthy team.
A Chris Stansik goal midway through the opening frame put the Green Knights down 1-0, which is somewhat uncharted territory as of late.
We have been scoring first regularly, Coghlin said, but this is the tournament and we told the guys anything could happen. When they scored the first goal I dont think were terribly phased and we really started to pick it up in the second half of the period.
The Knights evened things up at 17:52 of the period on a laser from Cody Keefer.
[Hes] a sniper, Coghlin said. He can score from just about anywhere on the ice and he labeled that puck. The goaltender was going to have to make a big save, but that was a great shot and really propelled us into the second period.
Keefers goal set the stage for a nearly 20 minute stretch in which the ice was clearly tilted in the Green Knights favor and they took advantage of it as Dustin Walz, Matt Boyd and Brandon Longley all struck in the opening nine minutes of the second period to make it 4-1 St. Norbert.
Adrian cut it to 4-2 on a Mike Dahlinger power-play goal at 10:47 of the period and the score held into the second intermission.
Adrian was awarded a golden opportunity with a 5-on-3 power play near the midpoint of the third period, but a stellar penalty kill — especially the effort of Johan Ryd — kept the Bulldogs off the board and the two goal lead intact.
That kill was the turning point, Coghlin said. Getting the sticks on pucks and the job Johan did, along with Scott Pulak and Jason Nopper on the back end was a great effort and a great PK from us.
Each team only registered three shots in the final period, and an Adrian goal by Mike Towns with under four minutes to go was enough to make things interesting, but it wasnt enough as the Green Knights defense did its part and the 4-3 score held up until the final horn.
We were able to do what we needed to do, Coghlin said. I dont really think there was too much pressure being applied on either end in the [third] period. They got the goaltender out but our guys were poised and made all the right plays and we were able to get out of there with the win.
Enter a showdown with Gustavus Adolphus to determine who will be the West Region representative in Lake Placid. St. Norbert is 12-11 all-time against the Gusties but 12-1 under Coghlin. Interestingly, the one loss came at the Cornerstone in the fall of 2007. It was the only loss of the season for the eventual national champions. The two also met last year with the visiting Green Knights scoring a wild 7-5 win.
They last time they were here they won, said Coghlin. The game we were in down there last year really looked like one of those where you thought whoever had the puck last was going to win.
The two did not meet this season which adds to the intrigue as both have been highly ranked all season. Coghlin knows full well the threats the Gusties pose, especially after making it all the way to Lake Placid, and the national championship game, a year ago.
They made a heck of a run a year ago, Coghlin said. They beat Superior on the road, beat Stout in Lake Placid and so on. They are a really aggressive team that really gets up and down the ice. They use each other well, they pass well they are just a very complete team.
One new experience for St. Norbert will be the short three day turnaround from the Adrian game, but Coghlin is confident its not an issue as the Gusties are in the same boat.
Everybody understands that all four teams out here were facing the same thing so there is no advantage or disadvantage for anybody. The big thing is that we are going to have to take advantage of the fact we are at home.
While the Gusties offer a high flying offense led by David Martinson, the leading goal scorer in the nation, they have also shown the ability to win defensive battles and are battle tested after three tough postseason game so far — including a marathon four overtime win over Augsburg in the MIAC semifinals.
As such, Coghlin isnt quite sure how this meeting might break down stylistically.
“I think it will be a different type of game this time, though, he said. Both teams know what sort of defense it takes at this point in the year so one of those 2-1 or 3-1 games wouldnt surprise me, but the possibility is always going to be there for a track meet as both teams can get up and down and are good skating teams.
As far as how the Green Knights are approaching things, it will be no different than it has been for over a decade:
Everyone knows the style of game we play here. We like to finish our checks, play hard down in the paint and make people work hard for their scoring chances.
If St. Norbert is able to execute the way it wants to and punch another ticket to Lake Placid, you wont be hearing too many complaints emanating from the Green Knight’s camp. After all, it worked out pretty well the last time around. Win and theyre in.
Gustavus Adolphus (20-6-2 overall, 12-2-2 in MIAC)
This game marks the fourth time in the past six years that the MIAC representative in the NCAA tournament has had to travel to St. Norbert in order to keep their season alive. Of the previous three games, only once was the MIAC team able to overcome the Green Knights and advance.
While Gustavus has not met St. Norbert in the playoffs, the two teams have met in each of the previous two regular seasons. Last year, Gustavus lost 7-5 at home, while the previous season the Gusties prevailed 4-2 at St. Norbert, giving the Green Knights their only loss of the season en route to a national championship.
This Gustavus team has 11 seniors on its roster, so they will have a good idea what to expect from St Norbert.
“We’re expecting it to be a tough game, said Gustavus head coach Brett Petersen. “St. Norbert is extremely talented with great depth, and they are awfully tough at home.”
Gustavus is no slouch away from home though, as the Gusties posted an 8-2-1 record on the road this season.
“You have to have a somewhat different mindset on the road,” said Petersen. “I think the beginning of the game will be more important than usual, as we try to weather the storm early.”
Staying even early on is even more important against this opponent, as St. Norbert is hardly ever beaten when leading after two periods.
“We’re going to have to rely on (junior goaltender Josh) Swartout early on to keep us in the game,” said Petersen. “We’re going to have to absorb some shots, and then look to counterattack through the rest