Wisconsin-Stevens Point completes unbeaten season, captures men’s D-III national championship in OT over Norwich

Wisconsin-Stevens Point completed an unbeaten season (29-0-2) with a national championship, downing Norwich in overtime Saturday night on home ice (photo: Kylie Bridenhagen)
Wisconsin-Stevens Point completed an unbeaten season (29-0-2) with a national championship, downing Norwich in overtime Saturday night on home ice (photo: Kylie Bridenhagen).

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Steven Quagliata has scored overtime goals before in his hockey career but none bigger than the one he registered Saturday night.

The sophomore defenseman wristed a shot into the upper right corner at the 15 minute, 13 second mark of the extra period to lift Wisconsin-Stevens Point to a 3-2 win over Norwich in the NCAA Division III men’s hockey national title game at K.B. Willett Arena.

“I never thought it would have been me but I got my opportunity and I ended up finding the corner,” Quagliata said. “An overtime goal for a defenseman is not likely and that’s one that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

UW-Stevens Point (29-0-2) became the first Division III men’s program to complete a perfect season and won the sixth championship in its history. The Pointers also won the title in 1989, ’90, ‘91, ’93 and 2016, and captured the 1990 crown on their home ice as well.

Pointer senior winger Tanner Karty was named the Frozen Four’s outstanding player.

“To be honest the whole undefeated thing was just the carrot on top. It’s nothing that we talked about or cared about,” said UWSP coach Tyler Krueger, a former Pointers player and an assistant on the 2016 team “We just wanted to win (the title) here in front of our fans. This game and weekend will go down in this town for years. It’s something that people will be talking about 20 years for now. They talk about the 1991 one still.”

Quagliata picked up the puck at the Norwich blue line off a pass from Colin Raver and broke down the right side and lifted the high shot over the glove of Cadets goalie Tom Aubrun, who finished with 42 saves.

“We knew it was going to come down to one bounce (in overtime) and all 29 guys in our that locker room thought that (bounce) would go our way,” Pointers senior defenseman Stephan Beauvais said.

Norwich fell short of its sixth NCAA championship and had a 19-game unbeaten game snapped. It was the second title appearance in the past three years for a Cadets team which won the 2017 championship.

“I was there two years ago when we sent the seniors out with a national championship,” Norwich senior defenseman David Robertson said. “That’s what you like to do as a senior on the team. You want to win your last game in your last year. We got as close as we could get.”

The teams combined for all four goals of regulation in the third period. The Pointers scored twice in a snap of just over a minute to take a 2-0 lead and Coby Downs accounted for both of Norwich’s goals.

The Pointers fired 26 shots of Aubrun through the first two periods without success. That changed just 3:31 into the third as Jordan Fader redirected a slap shot from defenseman Danny Kiraly to break a scoreless battle.

UWSP made it 2-0 just 63 seconds later as Colin Raver took a long pass from Karty at the Norwich blue line, broke in and beat Aubrun with a low shot.

Downs scored off his own rebound at the 7:01 mark and then tied the game just over five minutes later. The sophomore forward took a pass from Scott Sawnson at the Pointers blue line, broke in, cut across the crease and beat UWSP goalie Connor Ryckman with a backhand.

Ryckman finished with 26 saves and also set a program record with his 26th win of the season.

“To be down 2-0 on the road, in their barn and to force overtime shows the resiliency of this team,” Norwich coach Cam Ellsworth said. ‘You have to be proud to come back on this stage and in this environment.

“The first five minutes (of overtime), we had a couple of chances,” Ellsworth said. “They got us running around and maybe tired us out a little bit.”

The Pointers, who lost in the national semifinal last year, had a 9-4 shot advantage in overtime and also controlled puck possession. UWSP lost to Salve Regina 3-0 in the 2017 Frozen Four in which they had a 55-20 shot advantage and on Saturday they nearly doubled up on Norwich

“It was one of those games that had a similar feel to last year’s semifinal,” Krueger said. “We used that experience to lean from it. You need to stick with the process and don’t force it. You need to trust each other and trust the game plan. It was just a matter of time (for us).”