GREEN BAY, Wis. — When traveling east toward St. Norbert, one has to travel through the town of Hobart to get there. This is somewhat ironic, as St. Norbert will now travel east through Hobart as it continues its quest for a national title.
On the heels of a penalty-laden 8-2 NCAA Quarterfinal victory over Wis.-Superior, the Green Knights advance to their third Frozen Four in the past four seasons. St. Norbert (24-4-2) moves on to the NCAA semifinals in Elmira, N.Y, where they will meet Hobart (20-7-0), who were 3-1 victors over Norwich.
Unlike in last weekend’s meeting between the two teams, this time St. Norbert was able to get on the board first. Only 1:36 into the contest an innocent looking Ryan Petersen wrister from the top of the left circle glanced off unobstructed Superior goaltender Mathieu Bonnelly’s glove and into the net.
Unfortunately for the Yellowjackets, the soft goal was a sign of things to come.
Less than five minutes later St. Norbert struck again — this time on the power play. Seconds after a St. Norbert penalty expired to give it a man advantage, defenseman Sheldon Wing took a pass from Andy Cote and unloaded a slap-shot from the right point that fought its way through traffic and past Bonnelly.
It was the next one though that would be the killer.
With Superior sustaining pressure in the St. Norbert zone, Cote was finally able to gain possession of the puck for the Green Knights. In an attempt to clear the puck so they could get a line change, Cote fired one on Bonnelly from the far side of the red line. Once again Bonnelly had trouble controlling an innocent looking shot, and it managed to somehow deflect off his arm and into the net.
According to Green Knight senior Spencer Carbery, the goals even took St. Norbert by surprise.
“Bonnelly is a good goalie, we’ve seen a lot of him,” Carbery said. “It’s unfortunate in a game of this magnitude, but we’ll take the breaks any way we can get them”.
With St. Norbert leading 3-0 only 10:51 into the game, Superior replaced Bonnelly with freshman Chad Beiswenger. Though only playing in his second career game as a Yellowjacket, Beiswenger and the Superior defense were able to slow St. Norbert until when late in the second period, Superior was finally presented with a golden opportunity of its own.
Following a pair of penalties on St. Norbert, including a five-minute major for checking from behind on forward Troy Boisjoli, Superior capitalized on the ensuing 5-on-3 powerplay when at the 17:15 mark of the defensemen Derek Miller sent a wrister from the top of the left circle through traffic and past Green Knight netminder Kyle Jones.
The goal brought the Yellowjacket faithful back to life, though that life would prove to be short-lived.
St. Norbert would take full advantage of its own 5-on-3 opportunity as in the final minute of the period, Marc Belanger and Kurtis Petersen were able to score back-to-back goals, putting St. Norbert up 5-1 after two periods.
“They did make it 3-1, and then those two quick powerplay goals at the end of the second period just upended them,” said Carbery.
Any hopes the Yellowjackets had of a comeback were fully squelched in the third period, as with less than seven minutes to go, St. Norbert would take advantage of yet another power-play opportunity.
With a 4-on-3 advantage, defenseman Sheldon Wing would set up linemate Tyler Gow, who unloaded a one-timer off the crossbar and pass Beiswenger, in turn giving the Green Knights a 6-1 lead.
Though Carbery and Ryan Petersen goals for St. Norbert, and a Nate Rein marker for Superior would round out the scoring and lead to the 8-2 final score, they were unfortunately not the most memorable moment of the final five minutes.
With 3:52 to play, St. Norbert’s Jeremy Mitchell got tangled up behind the play with Superior’s David Moncur. The ensuing mayhem resulted in Moncur picking up a five minute fighting major and a game disqualification and Mitchell picking up a two-minute roughing minor and a game misconduct.
The incident proved to be the capstone of a very physical game that resulted in a shocking 108 total penalty minutes. The Green Knights were able to capitalize, scoring six power-play goals in the 12 opportunities they had. In the mind of St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin, however, the special teams battle is one the Green Knights were prepared for.
“I’m not surprised,” Coghlin said. “I think with the (NCAA) “Points of Emphasis”, this is how the game has been called all year. Special teams used to be a Thursday practice item, and now it’s something we spend time on three days a week. As far as the overall time we spend on special teams, I think it’s a reflection of the overall tone of college hockey”.
As the Green Knights prepare for yet another Frozen Four, their past experiences are something they plan to draw from when it comes to preparing this week, according to Hughes.
“Our first year we were happy to get to the Frozen Four, so it was kind of an accomplishment in itself,” senior captain Connor Hughes said. “My sophomore year we lost in overtime in the finals, and I think we were kind of caught up in the moment”.
“This year we’re not going to just get caught up in the moment of making it to the Frozen Four,” Hughes added.
While it’s ironic St. Norbert will square off against a team with the same name as one of their own neighboring towns, it may be even more so that the Green Knights traditionally take the ice to the song “Back in the New York Groove”.
Thanks to tonight’s victory, St. Norbert can book their tickets for a trip to New York — but what remains to be seen is whether, this time, they can find that ultimate groove.