Men’s D-III West: Scouting the familiar Augsburg-St. Norbert series

Riley Christensen of St. Norbert (St. Norbert Athletics)
Riley Christensen will lead the potent St. Norbert offense against familiar foe Augsburg. (St. Norbert Athletics)

Third-ranked St. Norbert and sixth-ranked Augsburg know each other well. For the fourth consecutive season, the two teams are meeting in the NCAA tournament.

The Green Knights and Auggies met twice in the regular season, with the Auggies winning 6-5 in overtime on Dec. 7. The teams skated to a 3-3 tie a day later.

St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin knows his team will have its hands full as it battles for the right to continue its journey to a second consecutive national championship.

“Augsburg is the best team in the MIAC four years running and has a rich hockey history,” Coghlin said. “We schedule them in nonconference play when our schedules line up. We want to play the top teams across the country, and they have proven to be a national tournament team again this year.”

Auggies coach Chris Brown said regardless of who you play, the goal of each team is the same. He adds the familiarity sets the stage for a thrilling showdown.

“Every team in the tournament has prepared all year to get to this point, and I’m sure each team has the same goal in mind, which is to win the next game in front of them,” Brown said. “Having the familiarity with them makes for a great hockey game.”

The Auggies come in with a 21-3-3 record and take on the Green Knights (22-4-3) Saturday night at the Cornerstone Community Center. The winner moves on to play unbeaten and top-ranked Wisconsin-Stevens Point on March 16.

Augsburg comes in having won its last five games and is unbeaten in its last eight. The Auggies won their fourth consecutive MIAC tournament title last weekend, marking the first time any team in the conference has accomplished the feat. The Auggies won the MIAC crown with a 2-1 win over Saint John’s. It took four overtimes to get the win. Brown said that experience is beneficial to his team.

“Both teams played really well in the finals, and being pushed to the limit can definitely make a team stronger and better,” Brown said.

The Green Knights are in the tournament for the 19th time in program history and have won five national titles in that span while finishing as the runner-up four times. They are coming off their third consecutive NCHA title and 15th overall.

Coghlin believes his team is playing its best hockey at the right time. The Green Knights have rattled off 13 consecutive wins.

“The team has seemed to find its identity and is playing the right way now,” Coghlin said. “T.J. Black is locked in and our special teams continues to improve. Our goal every year is to be a top 10 team and to play our best hockey down the stretch.”

Coghlin can’t wait for the weekend. This is the time of the year he loves.

“Playing in the NCAA tournament is what we live for,” Coghlin said. “It all starts fresh again this week, as everyone’s record is 0-0 now.”

Brown can’t wait either.

“They have set a high bar for everyone at this level, and that’s why you get into coaching,” Brown said. “You get into it for that opportunity to play the best when they are the best.”

Scouting the Auggies
Augsburg has scored 106 goals this season. The Auggies have allowed 57.

Alex Rodriguez leads the team in scoring with 21 goals and 17 assists. Chandler Madry has come through 10 goals and 21 assists. Luke Dietsch has also scored more than 10 goals this season, racking up 14 goals and dishing out 15 assists.

Nick Schmit has been impressive in goal this season, fashioning a 1.91 goals-against average. He has won 16 games and has made 571 saves.

The Auggies have won 17 or more games in each of the last four seasons. The 21 wins are the most since the 1997-98 campaign, when they finished fourth in the national tournament.

Scouting the Green Knights
Riley Christensen has scored 13 goals and dished out 19 assists. He leads the team in points.

Peter Pates, Roman Uchyn, Peyton Frantti, Dominick Sacco, Kurt Black, and Timmy Nicksic have all scored 10 or more goals as well. Frantti leads the team in goals with 14. Brendon Gysbers is the team leader in assists, tallying 23 on the year.

T.J. Black has 21 wins. He sports a 1.60 goals-against average and has made 74 saves. St. Norbert has scored 127 goals and given up just 47. The Green Knights are undefeated at home this year, sporting a 16-0-2 record.