Cadets looking for repeat of 2010

Blake Forkey of Norwich (Tim Brule)

What a difference a week makes, at least on the scoreboard, as Norwich made up for a 2-1 loss in the conference championship game with Babson by posting a 4-0 win in last weekend’s NCAA quarterfinal that earned the Cadets a fourth-straight trip to the Frozen Four. The win over a game Babson squad was just the first in four tries this season for coach Mike McShane’s troops, who now know the margin for error is very slim at this point of the season.

“I thought we played pretty well the week before,” noted McShane. “Jamie’s team is very competitive, and although the score was 4-0, you know it was really a 2-0 game, so we were just a goal better than last week, and they went a goal or two the other way. You know, Chris [Czarnota] makes a couple of saves at the right time and we get a bounce, it is the little things that make a difference now, and I like the way we have been playing over the past few weeks. At this point in the season, it is always very close, and now we have a chance to go to Lake Placid, a special place, and play some more hockey.”

For the Cadets seniors, the trip to Lake Placid is déjà vu to their freshman season, when the Cadets won their third national championship. Although they have been back each of the past two seasons, they haven’t been able to repeat the run of 2010, so there is a sense of urgency for the guys who started their career on a winning note.

“These guys came in as freshmen and really played well,” stated McShane. “We go to Lake Placid and win the championship and they are like, ‘Wow, that was great, we can do this again.’ I think what the guys learned is that it is not easy to even get back to play in the Frozen Four, and even harder to win it. I think that is the message they have been sharing in the locker room with the new players, about that sense of urgency and the time being now.”

Of late, senior forwards Kyle Thomas and Blake Forkey have been playing extremely well up front for the Cadets, but their coach sees everyone stepping it up, and knows that some guys can pick up the slack if a line or player is struggling.

“Right now, we need everyone to contribute,” said McShane. “At this time of the season, I feel pretty good that all of our guys are playing well and contributing to our success. We are going to need that level of team play this weekend to be successful.”

Friday afternoon, the Cadets face another four-straight NCAA Frozen Four team in Oswego, which defeated host Adrian in overtime by a score of 3-2 to move on to Lake Placid. Unlike the Cadets, the Lakers’ three previous trips were all unsuccessful in securing a national title for the program, so coach Ed Gosek’s team also has a sense of urgency this time around.

“We know they are a very good team,” said McShane. “All four teams are playing well. Nobody backed their way into this weekend; all the teams earned the trip, so we know we are seeing very good teams playing very good hockey right now. Oswego has 14 seniors who have meant a lot to the program and are very experienced and very dangerous offensively. They have a terrific power play, so it will help us not to give them opportunities with the man advantage. They are a very good team, and we are going to have to play very well to beat them.”

The Cadets and Lakers faceoff in the early game to open the semifinals, and that is something that plays to McShane’s liking.

“I do prefer the early game,” noted McShane. “But really, you take what they give you and get ready to play. The thing about the early game is you get a few extra hours of rest, as compared to the teams playing the late game, and your schedule or pre-game routine doesn’t get impacted if the first game goes into overtime periods. At this point of the season, everyone is in great shape so the extra rest may not be a big a deal, but every little bit helps.”

The only unknown for the Cadets on Thursday evening was the decision on the starting goaltender against Oswego. The Cadets have used three goaltenders all season, and have a routine in place for the timing of letting the starter know his status the day before the game.

“We have a big banquet tonight up here {Lake Placid],” stated McShane. “I will have the discussion tonight so our goalie will be ready for tomorrow. We are just trying to keep things as normal and routine as possible like we have done all season.”

Over the last four seasons, winning and appearances in the Frozen Four have been routine for Norwich. Don’t bet on anyone taking this trip lightly, particularly a group of seniors who would love to bookend their careers with a second national championship.