MCHA, MIAC and NCHA NCAA tournament wrap: March 13

With the rat-tat-tat of a three-goal second period Saturday, Adrian gunned its way past Elmira to earn its first-ever trip to the NCAA D-III Final Four.
Seniors Sam Kuzyk, Brad Houston and Shawn Skelly scored three unanswered goals within an eight-minute span as the host Bulldogs knocked off the Soaring Eagles, 5-3, before a sold-out crowd of 1,000 at Arrington Ice Arena.
Kuzyk and Joel Workman added third-period tallies for Adrian, which outshot Elmira, 29-23.
Soaring Eagles’ forward Kevin Willer opened the scoring with a power-play goal 2:06 into the contest. Brock Sawyer scored the first of two goals with 2:51 left in the first period as Elmira (17-7-4) led 2-0.
The victory was the program’s first NCAA tournament win, which comes a year after making its first appearance when Adrian lost, 4-3, to St. Norbert in the first round. Adrian men’s hockey program is only in its fourth year.
“To win a big game puts a major stamp on the program,” Adrian Coach Ron Fogarty said. “Now we have won that big game.”
Adrian (24-3-1) has 13 days off before facing Oswego (23-4) in the semifinals March 25 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. Oswego beat Bowdoin, 7-5, in its quarterfinal Saturday.
The Lakers beat the Bulldogs, 5-2, when they last met in Oswego Jan. 8, 2010.
Due to its eastern Midwest location, Adrian is one of the few D-III West Region teams that travels to play East Region teams during the regular season.
Against East Coast Athletic Conference West’s Elmira, though, Adrian stumbled by going down two men when Houston and Jeremy Klaver went off for boarding and tripping respectively within the opening two minutes.
Elmira’s Willer took advantage of the open ice to unleash a slap shot along the ice that eluded Adrian netminder Brad Fogal
Karl Linden and Darcy Vaillancourt assisted on the power-play tally, which was the first man-advantage goal Adrian surrendered in five games. The Bulldogs entered the quarterfinal game possessing the nation’s best penalty-kill at 90 percent.
Elmira struck for a second power-play goal.
Sawyer fired a rebound into an unguarded net, which was exposed after Fogal made a close-range save but couldn’t recover. Dylan Jerold and Rick Schrank assisted.
“We didn’t think it would start that way, but we were fortunate to get up by two from the get-go,” Elmira Coach Aaron Saul said.
Despite the 2-0 deficit, Adrian didn’t get rattled, Kuzyk said. The home team held an 11-7 shot edge after the opening period.
“We might have been down 2-0 on the scoreboard, but if you paid attention to the shots and the 5-on-5 play, they really didn’t have anything on us,” said Kuzyk, whose tip-in goal ignited the three-goal rally.
The senior forward emphatically banged his stick on the ice en route to the net, if not only to draw attention to that he was open, but to remind his teammates the sense of urgency at hand.
Houston and Mike Dahlinger assisted on Kuzyk’s marker, which came 7:55 into the second period.
Two minutes later, Houston poked in the game-tying goal on a wild scramble in front of the net. Elmira goalie Darren MacDonald made the initial save on Shawn Courtney’s shot, but the puck squirmed loose.
“It looked like the goalie had it,” Houston said. “I was just lucky to be going through and took a wild swing at it and made contact.”
Skelly’s slap shot took a similar fortuitous path, skidding and bouncing past Elmira’s MacDonald for the go-ahead goal. The Arrington Ice Arena crowd went into a tizzy, waving supplied hand towels for a scripted white-out effect.
The goal was Skelly’s 100th of his collegiate career. Eric Miller also notched an assist and his 200th career point on the play.
Kuzyk and Workman goals came 1:07 and 1:23 into the third period. Sawyer scored to make it a two-goal game, but Elmira was unable to capitalize on two successive power plays.
Senior forward Eric Roman, a transfer from Wayne State when that school ended its men’s program, threw himself in front two goal-bound shots on a 4-on-3 power play at 3:05.
“You have a lead like that and you have 20 minutes to go, and you have a chance to fly to Minneapolis, you are going to do a lot of things for your team,” said Fogarty, who described Roman as a “bulldog.”
St. Norbert through
St. Norbert goalie B.J. O’Brien, who’s  seen many shutouts elude him in this season, made sure this one didn’t. The senior netminder stopped 21 shot to blank No. 9 Hamline, 4-0, in a quarterfinal victory for the No. 1-ranked Green Knights Saturday.
Joe Perry, Seth Soley, Nick Tabisz and Scott Pulak supplied the St. Norbert goals while O’Brien (20-2-1) earned his eighth career shutout and fourth this season. O’Brien played in eight of nine St. Norbert’s games this season when the team has only yielded one goal.
“Our ‘D’ did an excellent job today,”  the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association player of the year told the Green Bay Press Gazette afterward.
“I didn’t have many shots, so I give credit to our defense and our offense for making plays, cycling and keeping the puck in their zone for most of the whole game.”
The Green Knights led 1-0 going into the final 20 minutes when they erupted for three goals.
St. Norbert (23-4-1) faces Norwich (22-5-3) on March 25 in the NCAA Final Four semifinals in Minneapolis. The contest is a rematch of last year’s final, which the Cadets won, 2-1, in double overtime.
“Norwich is obviously a familiar foe in some ways,” St. Norbert Coach Tim Coghlin told Green Bay Press Gazette afterward. “We don’t see them yearly, but we saw them last year.
” There’s no retribution — this is for the 2011 national championship and you’re one of four teams.”

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