Men’s D-III Playoff Preview: St. Norbert

St. Norbert Green Knights
Record: 22-4-1
Ranking: No. 1 USCHO poll,
Leading scorer: Johan Ryd — 9 goals, 16 assists, 25 points
Starting Goaltender: B.J. O’Brien — 19-2-1, 1.62 goals-against, .930 save-pct.
Coach: Tim Coghlin (18th season)

Such is the single-minded purpose of the Green Knights that winning a second-straight Northern Collegiate Hockey Association championship — as they did Saturday — barely registers a bump on the excitement meter.

“It was a pretty calm demeanor,” says coach Tim Coghlin, describing the mood as his No. 1-nationally-ranked team hoisted its ninth Peters Cup title overall after a 2-1 victory over persistent-foe Wisconsin-Superior.

“I think we have another gear right now; I really do,” Coghlin says. “I don’t feel we had our best 60-minute effort on Saturday. I think that still lies in front of us.”

A lack of giddiness was understandable. The Green Knights have their sights honed in on a NCAA championship, which eluded them last season in a heartbreaking 2-1 double-overtime loss to Norwich in the last season’s final.

This season, St. Norbert rolled through the competition. Rare losses only reminded Green Knights players what remained at stake.

The team’s impressive season was accomplished on a mere offensive output of 98 goals. By comparison, No. 5 Adrian racked up 136 goals this season.
The key has been timely goal scoring, especially by junior forward Johan Ryd, whose seven of nine goals this term have been game-winners. His seven game-winners is tops among D-III scorers.

“(Ryd) is just a clutch guy, and the fact is he plays so hard and so well in both ends of the rink,” Coghlin says. “He’s on the ice in all critical spots. He really gives himself a good opportunity and, on the chances he’s had, he’s been able to bury the puck.”

NCHA Player of the Year B.J. O’Brien has been the difference in the Green Knights’ plethora of low-scoring victories. O’Brien’s paltry 1.62 goals-against leads the nation, while he ranks third on the national charts in winning percentage (.886 pct.) and fourth in save-percentage (.930 pct).

Those sparkling numbers follow an outstanding junior season when he went 24-3-3 with a 1.61 GAA to lead the Green Knights to the NCAA D-III championship game. The Lakeville, Minn., product transferred to St. Norbert from St. Cloud State as a sophomore.

“I think this year has just been a carryover from last year in many ways,” Coghlin says. “Like I said, our team has another gear and I think he does, too.”