For the third time in the last four years, St. Norbert is the Division III national champion. Four AJHL alumni became national champions with the victory, including:
- Brandon Hoogenboom, Okotoks Oilers
- Sam Higgins, Fort McMurray Oil Barons
- Cullen Bradshaw, Brooks Bandits
- Connor Bradshaw, Brooks Bandits
The Green Knights (28-3-1) defeated in-state rival Wisconsin-Stevens Point 3-1 Saturday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
After the game, St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin was philosophical in describing the victory.
“As it goes from our standpoint, we got out early and played with a lead for most of the night,” Coghlin said. “When we are able to do that and other teams have to challenge, I think our structure and our senior class and our goaltending allows us to do some things that are difficult.”
The Pointers finish the season 22-6-1.
“I am extremely proud of this group and how much progress we’ve made in a short amount of time,” UWSP coach Chris Brooks said.
The Green Knights dominated the final 10 minutes of the first period and potted two goals in 11 seconds, which breaks the previous record of 31 seconds set by Oswego just last year in the national championship game against Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Joe Perry broke the ice with 6:54 remaining into opening period as he banked it off Wisconsin-Stevens Point goaltender Brandon Jaeger. Tyler Zepeda notched the lone assist.
Then Eric Cooper let a shot go from the blue line to give St. Norbert the 2-0 lead. Blake Thompson and Michael Hill notched the assists.
“Every game has it ebb and flow,” Coghlin said. “One team generates some push and the other team pushes back. We obviously lived through that the entire season like all teams and coaches do.”
Brooks thought his team played well despite the 11-second mishap.
“We were down 2-0 after the first period and I loved how we played the first period,” Brooks said. “That’s hockey. I am extremely disappointed, but at the same time, I am so proud of these guys and what they have accomplished. The sun is going to come up tomorrow and we are in a better spot in the morning.”
After a scoreless second period, the Pointers finally found the back of the net just 45 seconds into the third period when Garrett Ladd found the back of the net. The goal was set up by Joe Kalisz and Kyle Sharkey.
“I told the guys to trust themselves,” Brooks said of his message going into the third period. “We’ve been in the situation before. We wanted to force St. Norbert on how we play – we didn’t want to play their game. I told the guys to stay the course.”
The Pointers regained the momentum after the goal putting pressure on St. Norbert goaltender David Jacobson and had a couple chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Jacobson made 23 saves in the victory, while Jaeger made 26 saves in the losing effort.
The Green Knights put the dagger in when a Marian Fiala shot from the right-side boards knocked off Jaeger’s water bottle to give St. Norbert the 3-1 lead.
“The second period and the beginning of the third period, they were pressuring on the power play up top and we couldn’t work up high,” Fiala said. “It was towards the end of the power play [and] we weren’t getting it into the zone. I pretty much closed my eyes and shot it. I don’t remember the rest of it.”
He’ll remember the final score, though. The championship rings will be a great reminder of that.