OSWEGO, N.Y. — Amherst had the number one team in the nation, St. Norbert, on the ropes, but let them off as the Green Knights mounted a three-goal third period comeback to beat the Lord Jeffs, 3-1. Two controversial calls and a failed penalty shot added to the excitement of the championship game in the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Hockey Classic at the Campus Center Ice Arena.
“Everything they did last night, they did again tonight,” St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin said of Amherst. “They compete very, very hard with very good stick skills. They skated very well. They really took away the middle of the ice very well. It wasn’t until the third period when we got involved with some offensive cycle and started bringing our strong side defenseman up on top and then we started creating a little more around the net.”
“We played well, we played hard, we gave ourselves a chance,” Amherst coach Jack Arena said. “They are so good, I knew they would keep applying the pressure.”
Amherst got on the board first, but it wasn’t till there were 36 seconds left in the opening period, and it also wasn’t without some controversy. A turnover in the high slot area allowed Luke Arnold to fire it in. It hit the bottom of the crossbar, bounced down, and then out. St. Norbert’s coach Tim Coghlin argued it came straight out without going in. After the referees conferred with the goal judge, it was ruled a goal.
“From our video angle, it looked like it hit the center crossbar and came straight down,” Coghlin said. “The explanation to me was that it hit the back padded bar which is angled. That’s why I questioned it.”
Amherst’s Cole Anderson was tested a lot more than his counterpart in the first period. Anderson made a number of difficult saves, many with his stick, to keep St. Norbert at bay. Out of the nine shots by the Green Knights, over half were good scoring opportunities.
The second period went by without a goal, but not without plenty of chances and five power plays for the Lord Jeffs. St. Norbert continued to get frustrated by Anderson’s impersonation of a brick wall. Meanwhile, Blake Blashor was called upon to keep Amherst from extending their lead, especially during an extended five on-three.
“He played terrific,” Arena said of Anderson, who wound up with 29 saves.”He’s played like that every game so far this year. He’s an excellent, excellent goalie.”
“The kid played well in goal,” Coghlin complimented the opposition.
St. Norbert applied heavy pressure right from the third period face off, as they tried not to waste any time getting the equalizer, but, it quickly went for naught when they committed a tripping penalty. However, that nearly turned into an advantage.
First, Amherst appeared to have extended their lead, but this time when it did appear to go into the net, the refs, after a conference with the goal judge, ruled it did not. Seconds later, Matt Boyd had a shorthanded breakaway, but he was slashed from behind by Keith Nelson. Boyd was awarded a penalty shot.
When Boyd made his move, the puck bounced up on its side, allowing Anderson to react in time to Boyd’s attempt to backhand it through the five-hole.
“He had one good game stick and one backup practice stick,” Coghlin said. “He broke his stick on that play, and all the guys on the bench were laughing because he had to use the stick that he hasn’t handled the puck with all season.”
“It was big,” Arena said of the save. “It would have been bigger if we could have taken advantage of that power play where we had a minute-and-a-half left. Our power play has been pretty successful up until this tournament. We went 0-for-this-tournament.”
The Green Knights finally solved Anderson just after killing off two successive penalties. St. Norbert controlled the puck deep in Amherst’s zone. From the corner, Shane Wheeler fed Marc Belanger at the right face off circle, and Belanger fired a hard wrist shot that sailed over the outstretched limbs of Anderson.
The play continued mostly in Amherst’s zone, and St. Norbert converted that pressure into their first lead of the game. Belanger’s initial shot was stopped by Anderson, but he couldn’t reach the rebound sitting just outside the side of the crease. Boyd got to it first and knocked it past the goalie.
Ryan Peterson clinched the game with an unassisted empty netter.
Shane Wheeler was named the Tournament MVP. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by his teammates Nick Tabisz and Kyle Jones (who played goal in yesterday’s game). Amherst placed Luke Arnold and Rylan Burns.
“It’s great to see the best of the west, to see the defending national champs, Curry, which is a great program, and to play teams that you don’t play regularly,” said Arena. “It’s great to see how you stack up and to see the different competition.”
Amherst is now 4-3-2 and hosts UMass-Boston on January 11.