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Green Knights hang on for another title shot

March 23, 2018
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - A three-goal lead over Colby in Friday's NCAA Division III men's ice hockey championship semifinal proved to be a big enough cushion for St. Norbert to reach tonight's final at the Olympic Center, but it was barely enough.

After surging out to a 2-0 lead just 2:35 into the game and upping their edge to 3-0 in the middle of the first period, the Green Knights hung on to claim a 4-3 victory over the Mules.

Tanner Froese scored two goals and Roman Uchyn and Dominick Sacco netted a goal apiece in the win. In what looked like it could be a blowout early on, the game turned into an offensive show that saw the teams combine to put 90 shots on net.

Article Photos

Colby’s Mario Benicky goes airborne while attempting to dish off the puck after colliding along the boards with St. Norbert’s Kurt Black during the second period of Friday’s NCAA Division III semifinal at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

J.P. Schuhln, Cam MacDonald and Justin Grillo scored a goal each for Colby, which was playing in the NCAA Division III ice hockey finals for the first time and ended the season with a 17-11-2 record.

The Green Knights improved to 26-4-1 and will take on Salve Regina in tonight's championship game at the Olympic Center starting at 7 p.m.

St. Norbert couldn't have gotten off to a better start. The Green Knights jumped out to a 1-0 edge 1:28 into the game on Uchyn's tally, and 67 seconds later, they were up 2-0 when Sacco scored after he skated in alone on Colby goalie Sean Lawrence and five-holed a shot.

St. Norbert appeared to be clearly in command of the game when Froese netted his first of the night 11:33 into the first for a 3-0 lead.

But with their backs to the wall, the Mules kept chipping away and scored three of the game's next four goals before ultimately coming up short.

"Getting up like that that early can bite you in the backside," St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin said. "I have to congratulate Colby. They kept coming and coming and coming."

The Green Knights held their 3-0 advantage well into the second period, but Colby stormed back. Schuhlen put the Mules on the board at the 15:04 mark of the second, and MacDonald cut Colby's deficit to 3-2 when he ripped a wrist shot past St. Norbert netminder T.J. Black for a power-play goal at the 17:56 mark. MacDonald's tally brought the Mules' fans to life, and less than a minute later, Colby was looking for a tying goal when it went on another power play.

But instead of burying what would have been a tying goal as the third period approached, the tide turned back to the Green Knights, who came through with a short-handed goal by Froese with 35 seconds remaining in the period to regain a two-goal lead. Froese's goal was the last one scored by the Green Knights in the game, but that's all they ended up needing down the stretch.

Trailing 4-2, the Mules made it a one-goal game again when Grillo scored with 5:52 remaining in regulation. Colby pulled Sean Lawrence from the net with just over a minute remaining in the third for an extra skater, and they were able to sustain some pressure in the closing seconds but were not able to put one more puck into the net.

"I'm never displeased with the effort. This was our sixth week in a row on the road," said Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald, who was named the coach of the year in Division III men's hockey earlier this week. "This team brings it always. It's tough to get out of a hole like that, and I'm very proud of how we played for the next 40 minutes. I think their short-handed goal at the end of the second was the turning point."

T.J. Black made 40 saves to earn the win in goal for the Green Knights. After looking shaky during the first few minutes of the game, Lawrence settled in and finished with 43 stops between the pipes for the Mules.

Froese, a senior and Black, a junior, were both on the ice at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena two years ago when St. Norbert fell 4-1 to Wisconsin Stevens-Point in the 2016 Division III championship game.

Tonight, they'll be leading St. Norbert into its ninth trip to a national final, which is tied for the most appearances in that game along with Middlebury. The Green Knights have won four national crowns in Division III men's hockey.

"There's a majority of us who have some unfinished business coming here," Froese said. "That's been a motivation."



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