This week in men’s D-III West: Augsburg looking to return to Frozen Four

Luke Dietsch of Augsburg (Kevin Healy Kevin Healy for Augsburg University/Kevin Healy for Augsburg University)
Luke Dietsch of Augsburg (Kevin Healy Kevin Healy for Augsburg University/Kevin Healy for Augsburg University)

Luke Dietsch and his Augsburg teammates know St. Norbert pretty well. The teams met twice in the regular season and have collided in the last two NCAA tournaments. The top-ranked Green Knights have won every time. The 11th-ranked Auggies are hoping for a different result this time.

The two teams square off Saturday night in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tourney at Cornerstone Arena.

“We’re excited and happy to be back,” Dietsch said. “We learned a lot from those past games against them and are going in with a chip on our shoulder.”

The Auggies are 19-9 and are the three-time champions of the MIAC tournament. They are seeking their first Frozen Four appearance in 20 years.

The Green Knights are 24-4-1 and are in the NCAA tourney for the 18th time. They are on a mission to win their first national title since 2014.

A year ago in the NCAA tourney, the Auggies fell 4-3 in overtime in the quarterfinal round.

“To be one of the teams still playing hockey, it’s a pretty special feeling,” Dietsch said. “St. Norbert is a great team and has been for a long time. We have to be ready to come out and compete hard.”

Dietsch has been instrumental in the success of the Auggies, who have won three in a row. He is tied for second on the team in points (27), scoring 11 goals and dishing out 16 assists.

The Auggies have scored 101 goals in all. Nate Flynn and Drew Anderson play on the same line as Dietsch. Flynn leads the team in points (28), tallying 12 goals and 16 assists. Anderson has come through with eight goals and 14 assists.

“I have great chemistry with my linemates,” Dietsch said. “I’ve been playing with Drew since junior hockey.”

The three are part of a formidable overall lineup.

“We have great depth,” Dietsch said. “Anyone on our team can go out there and score. We are comfortable with anyone being on the ice in any situation. It makes us a tough team to play against.”

Augsburg opened the season with eight consecutive wins and then dropped five in a row before Christmas. They are 11-4 in the second half of the season.

“We were at rock bottom. The break couldn’t have come at a better time,” Dietsch said. “We found our game again after the break, and we know that now that we are in the playoffs, we have to show up or our season is done.”

The Auggies certainly don’t want their season to end. No one does.

Dietsch, a junior, is thankful to be in such a great position as a player, to play for one of the best programs in the country, and he’s hopeful the season will continue beyond this weekend.

“It means a lot that we are still playing hockey,” Dietsch said. “We know at the end of the day it’s just another game this weekend, and we’re sticking with the same plan we’ve had all year. We’ll compete, have fun, and take in the moment. It should be a great game.”

Playoff Note
Adrian and Wisconsin-Stevens Point are the other remaining teams out of the West in the postseason. The second-ranked Bulldogs host the fourth-ranked Pointers Saturday. The winner advances to the national semifinal round of the tournament.

Adrian is 24-5 and is led by Taylor McCloy, who has scored 23 goals and has 37 points in all. Goalie Kevin Entmaa has won 16 games and owns a 1.75 goals-against average. The Bulldogs have won 16 of their last 17 games.

The Pointers come in with a 20-5-3 record, and Tanner Karty leads the way with 22 goals and 26 assists. Wis.-Stevens Point and Adrian have played twice this year, with the Pointers prevailing in both games.