St. Norbert shuts down Norwich, 4-1
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Heading into this evening's NCAA semifinal against top-ranked Norwich, St. Norbert had never defeated a team ranked number one in the nation, but that side note can now be relegated to the dustbin of history as the Green Knights topped the Cadets 4-1 to advance to Saturday's national championship game.
"That was a highly emotional, charged game and there was a lot on the line ," said St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin. "I thought our guys handled it extremely well. This was just a product of the team continuing to get better as the year progresses."
After a brief feeling-out process in the opening five minutes, Norwich created the first quality scoring chance of the evening as a centering pass from forward Kyle Thomas led to three point blank chances, but St. Norbert goaltender David Jacobson made three big stops, the third of which with the glove, to keep the Cadets off the board.
Norwich goaltender Parker Carroll received his first real test of the game minutes later as Green Knights' forward Cody Keefer picked up a loose puck in the left slot, but Carroll shut it down with his glove to keep the game scoreless.
At about the midpoint of the period, the two traded penalties -- and abbreviated power plays -- for the better part of the period, and it was St. Norbert who eventually capitalized. With the man advantage following a trip on the Cadets' Colin Mulvey, Green Knights' forward Johan Ryd found space in the low left slot and though his shot was saved by Carroll, forward Joe Perry jumped on the rebound and chipped it over Carroll to stake the Green Knights the 1-0 lead at the 18:20 mark.
"It was a good play by [Johan] even though he kind of whiffed on the shot," Perry said. "I think him whiffing kind of made it like a pass to me and I was lucky enough to be in the right spot in the right time and bang it home."
With 33 seconds left in the period, another Cadets' penalty put the Green Knights on the power play again but they were unable to score in the waning seconds and the period ended 1-0. St.Norbert outshot Norwich 10-7 in the frame, and controlled the tempo for stretches -- a trend not nearly as present in its past two Frozen Four meetings with the Cadets.
"They got the early goal and it certainly gave them the jump," said Norwich head coach Mike McShane. "We had a lot of chances early but they had a great game. Part of it was their play and part of it was just us not being able to get anything going."
St. Norbert controlled the opening five minutes of the second period, though it was Norwich who, on multiple occasions, nearly tallied the first goal of the period. Its best chance of the period may have come at the 10:32 mark as a turnover resulted in a great look for Cadets' forward Tory Allan, but Jacobson challenged the shot and made the stop without kicking a rebound to a wide open Norwich forward who was waiting on the back door.
A little over a minute later the Green Knights extended its lead to 2-0 at the 11:45 mark as a shot from the left point by forward Alain Joanette was deflected and landed right at the feet of forward Chris Rial who was driving towards the net. After corralling the puck, Rial pulled a slick backhanded toe drag and beat Carroll right side.
The goal ultimately proved to be the game winner, and Rial may have been an unlikely suspect as the freshman began the year as a defenseman before being converted to forward midway through the year.
"In the beginning of the season I was getting my reps in as a defenseman," Rial said. "I had played a little bit of forward in the past so coach threw up front and it's had a better effect on the team I believe as well, so I'll keep rolling with it."
Rial's marker proved to be the only scoring in the frame and the Green Knights carried the 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
Shortly after Norwich's Kyle Thomas was stoned by Jacobson on a shorthanded breakaway to nearly cut the lead to 2-1, St. Norbert ran its lead to 3-0 at the 4:56 mark of the third period with its second power play goal of the evening as forward Seth Soley deflected a Marian Fiala shot past Carroll.
Norwich finally spoiled Jacobson's shutout bid with 5:27 remaining in the game as Blake Forkey hammered in a rebound while on the power play to cut the lead to 3-1, but it was the only offense the Cadets could muster in the opening minutes and an empty net goal by forward Kyle Stroh with ten seconds go iced the 4-1 win for the Green Knights.
Jacobson, just a freshman, turned back 26 of the 27 Norwich shots he faced.
"He was not the starting goaltender and as a matter of fact got third situation reps in the beginning of the year," Coghlin said. "He bit his tongue, stayed positive and stayed patient."
"When he got his opportunity he said 'thank you very much, that'll be it for everybody else.'"
The Green Knights success was driven by largely by the same thing that fueled its run through the second half of the season and into the postseason: special teams. St. Norbert finished 2/5 with the extra skater, while their penalty killers held the second best power play in the nation to just one goal in eight opportunities.
"We have a good power play but I don't think we moved the puck as well as we could have," McShane said. "It was very frustrating. This was the worst game we played all year."
The Cadets wrap up their season at 24-3-2, while St. Norbert improves to 20-5-5 and will face the winner of Oswego State and Amherst in Saturday's title game, which is not a place many expected to see them this year considering it came into the year with a young roster after having to replace 11 seniors from last season's championship team.
"I know when we played Norwich here in 2010 I thought we were fatigued," Coghlin said. "Looking at it now, I think having a young, youthful group is good."
"They don't know any better."