Like all defending national champions, St. Norbert is looking to repeat. It’s easier said than done, unless you’re Middlebury, of course. Besides the Panthers’ incredible runs of three and five national titles, you have to go back to UW-Stevens Point in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s to find a team able to successfully defend its title.
For Tim Coghlin’s squad, the reality is life without Kyle Jones. The goalie who backstopped the Green Knights to a 27-1-4 record and a national last season set Division III career records for shutouts in a season (10), and career shutouts (25). Jones posted back-to-back blankings in the national semifinals and finals last season in Lake Placid.
But after four years and 107 games, there’s going to be someone new between the pipes at St. Norbert.
“We move on,” said Coghlin, whose team is off to a 3-0 start. “What we need to impress on the guys is how different it’s going to be. Not just because of Kyle. Last year everything went our way. The one-goal games, the overtime games.”
Filling the big shoes (skates?) of Jones will be a pair of sophomores, Blake Bashor and BJ O’Brien.
“We rested Kyle more last season than we did the year before, and Blake played seven games for us,” said Coghlin. “We know he can step in. Plus we have BJ O’Brien. We wanted him when he was an incoming freshman, but he decided to walk on at St. Clould. He was a backup there, so he decided to transfer. “
Coghlin says his team has what it takes to repeat, but knows that like last year, you have to get some bounces, too.
“We have a lot of guys back,” he said. “We moved quickly through conditioning and everybody’s in excellent shape. We have a lot of leadership. I don’t think we’ll be panicked at all, but I don’t think we’ll be cocky, either.”