MINNEAPOLIS – St. Norbert College advanced to its fifth NCAA Division III championship game in eight years with a pulsating 3-2 win against defending champion Norwich University in a Frozen Four semifinal at the University of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena.
Scott Pulak scored the game winning goal with 7 minutes 33 seconds remaining to snap a 2-2 tie and send the Green Knights back to the title game. St. Norbert, which lost 2-1 in double overtime to Norwich in last year’s championship, won its only national title in 2008. The Green Knights will face Adrian College at 7 p.m. Saturday for the title, the first all-West Region championship game since UW-River Falls beat UW-Superior in 1994.
St. Norbert and Norwich battled to a scoreless draw after the first two periods. The Cadets held a 9-6 shots advantage after the first period, but heavy pressure led to a 17-3 margin in the second period for a 26-9 edge after 40 minutes.
The Green Knights (24-4-1), ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com Division III Poll, then scored on their first two shots of the third period. Cody Keefer’s shot from the right circle 1:30 into the period broke the ice. Seth Soley followed at 3:20 from about the same spot for a 2-0 lead.
Norwich (22-6-3), ranked No. 2 in the USCHO.com Division III Poll, then answered with the next two goals. Travis Janke finished off a series of heavy Cadet pressure at 5:39. Pier-Olivier Cotnoir then scored his 21st goal of the year at 11:14 following a nice pass from below the goal line by Greg Eskedjian.
St. Norbert then got the game-winner at 12:27. Johan Ryd’s pass along the goal line found Pulak on the backdoor of the net, and the redirect was true. Brandon Longley also assisted on the score.
Norwich had a couple of good looks in the last 7 minutes, but was consistently turned away by St. Norbert goaltender B.J. O’Brien. The Cadets had a faceoff in the St. Norbert zone with 3.8 seconds left, but the Green Knights won the draw and ran out the clock.
O’Brien, the 2010 Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player despite playing for the runner-up team, was stellar again with 39 saves. O’Brien, who made 70 saves in last year’s title game, made all 26 saves in the first two periods.
Norwich was 0-for-4 on the power play, while St. Norbert was 0-for-1. The Cadets’ Parker Carroll made 15 saves in net.
St. Norbert, which has won eight of its last nine NCAA Tournament games, won 40 of the game’s 66 faceoffs.