It took 40 minutes longer than expected, but when all was said and done, a Pier Oliver-Cotnoir goal with only 31 seconds to play in the second overtime proved the capstone of a record-shattering national championship game and handed Norwich University a 2-1 victory over St. Norbert in tonight’s national championship game. The title is the Cadets third in school history and first since 2003.
Norwich outshot St. Norbert 72-34 on the night. The 72 shots and 70 saves by St. Norbert goaltender B.J. O’Brien are both all-time NCAA Division III tournament records, and the 99:29 it took to determine a winner made it the longest NCAA tournament game in men’s Division III history, breaking a record that had stood since 1984.
“Thank God it ended,” said Mike McShane, coach of the champion Cadets. “That was a tiring game. The kids did an unbelievable job of staying up. The kids stayed patient and they stayed persistent and this is a great bunch of guys; they deserve it.”
“I think we just need to look back on the season as a whole,” said St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin. “I can’t put into words how proud I am of this group of seniors and what they have done this season just to get here. We were relying way too much on our goaltender tonight, and I thought Norwich had all the answers. They made the plays and we did not, and sometimes it’s just that simple.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that the better team won tonight. They deserve everything they have.”
Though both teams’ efforts resulted in early scoring opportunities, it was Norwich who carried play in the opening eight minutes, until Cadets’ forward Craig Serino was hit with a penalty for high-sticking at 7:59.
The Green Knights were unable to convert with the man advantage however, and almost fell behind when Norwich forward Steven Schroeder nearly beat O’ Brien on a shorthanded 2-on-1 chance.
Norwich received a power play of its own at 10:55 of the first period after a boarding call on St. Norbert defensemen Jason Nopper. It didn’t take the Cadets long to convert with the extra attacker, as forward Chad Anderson drove home the rebound of a Pier Oliver-Cotnoir shot at 11:30 of the period to stake the 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, Norwich received another power play, this time courtesy of a boarding call on St. Norbert forward Tyler Alllen. Just 30 seconds later however, the Cadets took a penalty of their own to even it up.
A penalty on Norwich in the final minute of the period gave the Green Knights a brief power play, but they were unable to even it up by the end of the frame and the Cadets took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Cadets, who largely dictated the period, held an 8-5 shot advantage in the frame.
The remainder of the penalty expired without incident to open the second period, and for couple minutes that followed, St. Norbert was the team to carry play. The Cadets re-asserted themselves about five minutes into the period, but a penalty on the Cadets’ Troy Allen at 5:43 of the period put the Green Knights back on the power play — their fourth of the night. The Norwich penalty killers and goaltender Ryan Klingensmith once again held the St. Norbert power play in check.
The Green Knights knotted the game at 1-1 shortly after the penalty expired when senior defenseman Sam Tikka finished off a two-on-one by burying one over Klingensmith’s right shoulder.
“It was a 3-on-2 that Matt Boyd and I turned into a two-on-one,” Tikka said.
“The goalie wasn’t out that far and there was room so I was going up top all the way.”
St. Norbert received its fifth power play opportunity of the night at 10:00 of the period, but yet again was unable to manage a goal out of the opportunity. From that point on, Norwich continued to apply significant pressure and ultimately drew another penalty on Nopper at 16:50 of the period. The Cadets peppered O’ Brien with the man advantage, but the period ended still tied 1-1. Norwich again outshot St. Norbert in the period, this time by a 14-9 margin.
The story to begin the third was yet again the Norwich pressure, and at the 3:52 mark, it once again drew a penalty on the Green Knights. Though it required numerous sprawling saves from O’Brien to keep the puck out of the net, the Cadets were unable to get one by him and the 1-1 deadlock carried on.
St. Norbert nearly went up 2-1 with just under 11 minutes remaining on another two-on-one opportunity, but Kllingensmith stoned the one-time shot of St. Norbert forward Dylan Exton.
The final ten minutes wound down at a frantic pace, but both Klingensmith and O’Brien answered the bell every time they were asked, especially in the final twenty seconds, as Norwich threatened from the doorstep numerous times. Norwich carried a 15-6 shot advantage in the period and a 37-20 margin in regulation, but to overtime it went at 1-1.
“Fortunately, we had a lot of games like that this year and ran into a lot of hot goaltenders,” Anderson said. “It gets very frustrating, but that’s the best part about our team: when a guy comes off the ice frustrated, there’s another guy on the bench telling him to go out there and just do it again.”
Norwich continued its dominant play in the overtime sessions, but received a scare at 13:01 of the second overtime when Anderson was called for tripping. Yet again, Klingensmith and the Norwich penalty killers kept the Green Knights off the board and the second session wore on.
Following the power play, the Cadets immediately went back to work and their relentless pressure was finally rewarded with only 31 seconds left when Oliver-Cotnoir slammed home the rebound of a Kyle Thomas shot to give the Cadets the title. His game winner was Norwich’s 22nd shot of the overtime.
“Well I was real tired; this was definitely been the longest game I’ve ever been part of,” said a jubilant Oliver-Cotnoir. “I saw that Thomas was going wide and he beat the defensemen, so I thought I might as well go to the net. I just put my stick on the ice and hoped for the best. He actually made the first save but I got the rebound and got lucky.”
Considering the play of Norwich for the bulk of the evening, O’Brien’s 70 saves are the main reason the Cadets didn’t seal the deal even earlier, and that’s a sentiment shared by Coghlin.
“We were relying on our goaltender way too much; he did everything he could to give us a chance to win,” Coghlin said. “B.J. made some incredibly big saves along the way.”
Fortunately for Norwich, it was the one that O’Brien couldn’t manage to get a hold of that permanently cemented Norwich in the history books as the best in the land for 2010. Most impressive is the fact that the Cadets reached the apex with a roster that features 15 underclassmen.
“I was pleasantly surprised as the year went on about how much our guys matured,” said McShane. “I knew we had a good class, but we didn’t know it was going to be this good. It was a nice present for a coach. It didn’t take much for this team to get going and I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished this season.”