NORTHFIELD, Vt. — Coaches tell players that the first and last minute of a period are key times for momentum in a game. St. Norbert learned that lesson the hard way tonight, as Norwich scored two goals in the first minute of the third period to blow open a tight hockey game. The Cadets withstood a withering storm of pressure by St. Norbert as it tried to claw back into the game, and carried on to a 6-3 victory.
“Both teams played very well,” said Norwich coach Mike McShane. “It was hard fought. Both goalies played great. Defense was sound. But we had a little more jump and had a couple more quality chances. We thought it was a classic game. The team is working from within at this time of year. The captains are doing a great job. The leadership is coming out in a lot of guys.”
Phil Aucoin scored the first goal of the third period for Norwich, just :31 seconds in, to give the Cadets a 3-2 lead they would hold for the remainder of the contest. Paul Mattucci flipped a weak shot towards the net from deep in the corner. The puck bounced off of St. Norbert goaltender Chancy Colquhoun, and Aucoin was there on the doorstep to chip in the rebound to give Norwich a 3-2 lead.
Just twenty-seven seconds later, Norwich tallied again to build its first lead of more than a single goal for the game. Ed Boudreau tore away from center ice on a breakaway. As he skated in alone, Colquhoun held his ground, and Boudreau beat him low stick side for the goal at the :58 second mark of the third period.
“They had a couple of snipers put the puck in the net,” said St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin. “Those two goals back to back were a deep trench and we couldn’t crawl out. That was a very good hockey team that we played tonight.”
The Knights went through a tough stretch mentally after Norwich built the 4-2 lead. They self-destructed a little bit six minutes into the period when both captains, Kyle Peterson and Lennie Rampone, received frustration penalties. Norwich couldn’t convert on the ensuing power plays.
Killing off those penalties gave St. Norbert momentum, and the Knights rallied to cut the deficit to a single goal midway through the final period.
ACHA Player of the Year Maris Ziedens blasted the puck from the top of the right face-off circle past Norwich goaltender Mike Boudreau to score while St. Norbert was on a 4-on-3 power play, and the Knights were back in the game down 4-3.
“They have been No. 1 in the nation for quite a while after we lost it,” said Norwich All-American Lou DiMasi. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Any time we got up by a goal or two, they kept coming back because they are a great team. We knew we just had to keep battling, and get a break.”
That was as close as St. Norbert could narrow the margin. The Knights couldn’t dig out of the deficit this time, and Norwich scored again to put the game away. Aaron Lee tallied a breakaway goal at the 16:42 mark to seal the win for Norwich.
“[Colquhoun] poke checked me last time, and I wanted to make sure I got it around him this time,” said Lee. “I did, and got a little lucky.”
Marshall Lee added an empty net goal with under a minute to play, and Norwich won the game 6-3.
“The leadership of this hockey team has been outstanding all year,” said Coghlin. “At this point, there isn’t anything that would make it easier. But this team won’t hang their heads, they never have.”
The second period started out as a ride on the wild side, with wide-open end-to-end action. The first two minutes of the period saw an incredible sequence unfold that finally resulted in a St. Norbert goal to knot the game 1-1.
Just over a minute into the period, St. Norbert poured shots onto the Cadet net and watched one just trickle wide after it got behind Norwich netminder Mike Boudreau as the Cadets tried to kill off a penalty.
“It snowballs for good teams, and if you get it rolling, it can carry you an awful long way,” said Coghlin. “If one of those pucks had blown through the tender and found the twine, things turn dramatically. I think your team plays from an entirely different perspective in the overall picture of the game. Again, that puck didn’t go in for us today. Perhaps we didn’t earn that opportunity today, and Norwich did.”
Just seconds later, as the penalty expired, Cadet Paul Mattucci sprung through neutral ice and led a 3-on-0 breakaway into the Knights zone. Colquhoun out waited Mattucci and poked the puck off of his stick to send it harmlessly into the corner.
St. Norbert quickly broke out of its own zone and caught Norwich off guard with a quick transition through center ice. Jason Deitsch carried the puck across the Norwich blueline and found Mike Costley alone in the slot. Costley roofed the puck high over Boudreau’s shoulder to score 1:35 into the second period.
Special teams continued to carry Norwich offensively. The Cadets found themselves killing off a penalty less than two minutes after the Knights goal, but put an aggressive forecheck along the St. Norbert blueline.
All-American Kurtis McLean intercepted a St. Norbert breakout pass along the Knights’ own blueline, and skated in alone towards the net. McLean lined up a strong wristshot and wove it through Colquhoun’s five-hole to once again give Norwich a one goal lead, 2-1, at the 3:46 mark of the second period.
Up and down the ice, both teams continued to skate hard and hit hard, fighting to gain an advantage. McLean had another great chance late in the period, as he took a pass at center ice just as he came out of the penalty box and skated into the St. Norbert zone with a clean breakaway. However, Colquhoun was up to the challenge this time and blocked McLean’s shot with a fantastic save.
St. Norbert fought back once again from the deficit, and tied the game at the 19:01 mark of the second stanza. Defenseman Lennie Rampone blasted the puck from the top of the right face-off circle. It hit Boudreau in the left pad as he went down in the butterfly, but the puck bounced up and into the back of the net for the goal.
A problem with the glass in one corner of the Kreitzberg rink caused the final 26.3 seconds of the second period to be carried over into the beginning of the third.
Being a military-based school, it might seem appropriate that Norwich used the long-bomb pass against St. Norbert in the first period. The Cadets repeatedly sent the bombs down ice, and stretched the Knights from one end of the rink to the other. The long passes allowed Norwich to get several great chances on St. Norbert goaltender Chancy Colquhoun.
“It’s part of our game plan,” said McShane. “You watch what other teams are doing, but you have to stick with what you do well. Our strength is moving the puck very quickly and precisely, catching good passes.”
“Norwich was very opportunistic in the neutral zone, and that hurt us bad,” said Coghlin. “They were quick to blow guys up the gut, and that was very effective. That certainly negated the momentum of our D-corps getting involved in the offensive zone. That paid dividends down the stretch.”
Just 1:30 into the contest, Cadet Mario Chinelli missed a wide-open net as he tried to tap the puck into finish a two-on-one breakaway.
The pressure paid off for Norwich 8:44 into the first period when the Cadets scored the only goal of the period. Norwich controlled the puck in the Knights zone during the man-advantage, passing the puck around the perimeter from the point down into the corners and back out to the point.
St. Norbert covered the passes well, but couldn’t clear traffic out from in front of the goalie. Cadet Lou DiMasi blasted a shot from the right side of the blueline that wove through the traffic and past Colquhoun to give Norwich the 1-0 lead.
Both teams were tagged for penalties during the later half of the first period, but neither could take advantage of the other’s misfortune. Norwich poured on more pressure during the waning minutes of the period, getting St. Norbert running around in its own zone. However, despite the pressure, the first period ended with Norwich holding a slim 1-0 lead.