Courtesy of Matthew Webb, senior writer, d3hockey.com
Story on d3hockey.com
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - St. Norbert College defeats Salve Regina University 3-2 in double-overtime to claim the Division III men's ice hockey national championship.
The victory gives St. Norbert its fifth national championship in the last fifteen years, having made nine appearances in the title game during that time. Meanwhile the Seahawks are denied the first NCAA championship in university history in their first appearance in a title game for any sport.
Special teams featured prominently in the opening period, and it was St. Norbert that went on the man advantage first when Salve's Regina was dinged for tripping at the 3:47 mark. The Green Knights were unable to capitalize, however, thanks in part to a handful of perimeter shots that were blocked by Seahawks defenders -- which continued a trend from their semifinal win over UW-Stevens Point.
A charging penalty on St. Norbert at the 7:03 mark the period put Salve Regina on its first power play of the night, but the Seahawks also came up empty on their first chance with the extra man. The Seahawks went back on the power play with 5:27 remaining in the period and again failed to score despite forcing Green Knights' goaltender T.J. Black to make multiple difficult saves, including one on a shot from right on the doorstep by John McLean just as the penalty expired.
With just over three minutes left in the frame a slashing call on Salve Regina put St. Norbert on the power play for the second time, and this time it capitalized when it caught the Seahawks on a bit of a slow line change. Peter Bates hit Froese with a long pass along the far wall to set up a two-on-two near the Seahawks' blue line, and Froese found Dominick Sacco trailing the play, hit him with a pass and Sacco beat Wojtala to make it 1-0 Green Knights with 1:29 remaining in the period.
The opening ten minutes of the second period rolled by quickly and penalty-free, and also began to establish a trend that stuck throughout the remainder of the contest. Namely, St. Norbert enjoyed its most success once able to establish and maintain possession in the Salve Regina zone, while the Seahawks were especially effective with and manage to challenge Black repeatedly with chances generated by their transition game.
At the 9:36 mark the game hit a potential turning point when Salve Regina's Danny Eruzione was assessed a five minute major for boarding that put St. Norbert on an extended power play and gave it a golden opportunity to extend its lead.
A little over half way through the advantage, the Green Knights did just that when Froese curled at the left point and flipped a pass to defenseman Luke Davison, who fired a wrister from out high that beat Wojtala clean and it was a 2-0 game at the 12:25 mark of the second.
The two-goal lead didn't last long as Salve Regina managed to spring some transition offense despite being shorthanded which led to a quick series of shots on Black, the final one of which was finished off by Cameron Russo and it was a 2-1 game with 6:30 left in the period.
"Even-keel, that's what guys were saying down on bench when we had the five minute power play to kill off," said Salve Regina head coach Zech Klann. "It was just a shift at a time and as time would tick off guys were banging their sticks and helping each other and it was kind of cool to see."
"They were all very positive and saying right things and when Russo got the puck and scored to kind of delete their goal I think it kind of killed St. Norbert's momentum. The guys just didn't give up."
The 2-1 St. Norbert lead held through the remainder of the second period and the first half of the third, but shortly thereafter Salve Regina struck paydirt once again. Frankie Sullivan was able to skated end-to-end along the wall on the bench-side of the ice and put a shot in on Black, who kicked a rebound right to the Seahawks' Paul Boutoussov. Despite having his back to the net when gaining possession, Boutoussov managed to whirl 180 degrees and sweep a shot just inside the far post and it was 2-2 game with 9:25 to play in regulation.
The final half of the third period ticked by without either side finding a game-winner, as did the entire 20 minutes of the first overtime. Both teams came close in overtime, however, as in its early stages St. Norbert's Luke Davison rang a shot off the post while just moments later Salve Regina's Eric Lipa fired a shot that caught just a piece of Black's glove before floating inches wide of the St. Norbert goal.
Through the scoreless 30 minutes of game action, the pattern established earlier in the game continued to play out as St. Norbert featured a strong puck possession game once in the Salve Regina zone while the Seahawks remained formidable in the transition game.
Into the second overtime the game rolled, where just before the midpoint of the period Brad Pung's shot found twine to lock down yet another St. Norbert national title.
"That credit is to the guys, they're the ones that bought in from day one when they stepped on campus," Klann said. The older guys took the younger guys under their wing and they bought into it so all that credit is to the guys. Those are the guys that really came together as group – in all my experience I've never seen a team that's this close, and that's the honest truth."
Black finished with 41 saves to get the win in goal, while Wojtala made 47 stops on the night. Wojtala, who made 102 saves over a two-day span, was named to the All-Tournament team alongside teammates Vincenzo Renda and Erik Udahl.
For Salve Regina, though it came up just a hair short of its first national title, the loss closed out the finest season in program history as it finished with a 22-6-2 record and made its first Frozen Four and national championship game appearances.