Saturday’s Peter’s Cup championship clash between second-seeded St. Norbert and top-seeded Wis.-Eau Claire will not only be the most-anticipated match-up of the NCHA season, it will also be the final game in the history of the NCHA.
With the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference deciding to form its own league, St. Norbert and St. Scholastica decided to go their separate ways, breaking up the conference after 32 seasons. And what better way to see the NCHA come to an end than with the two best teams meeting for the right to represent the league in the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Blugolds (20-4-2) meet the Green Knights (22-5-1) on Saturday night in Eau Claire.
After going winless in three previous meetings against Wis.-Eau Claire, it would be foolish to pick St. Norbert, right? Well, the Green Knights are still back-to-back D-III national champions, and there’s no doubt they want to earn a historic three-peat. In addition, the Green Knights have a veteran team that knows how to step up in crucial moments.
While the Blugolds went 2-0-1 against St. Norbert this season, all three meetings were close. The Blugolds’ most impressive performance came on Jan. 25, when they blanked the Green Knights, 3-0, at home.
Ultimately, Saturday’s title clash comes down to the battle between the pipes: St. Norbert’s David Jacobson vs. Wis.-Eau Claire’s Brandon Stephenson. Last season, Jacobson burst onto the scene as a freshman and turned heads with his stellar play in the national title game.
However, this season, Stephenson was a notch better than Jacobson. It’s his time. He’s led the Blugolds to the top of the NCHA, and he’ll lead them into the D-III tournament. Also, the fact that St. Norbert barely survived a scare from St. Scholatica (2-1) last week at home doesn’t give me confidence the Green Knights can win at Eau Claire.
Make no mistake, St. Norbert will put up a fight to keep their legacy alive, but a new king will reign in the NCHA.
Wis.-Eau Claire 3-2