The puck stopped with Jaeger
UW-Stevens Point goalie blocks 45 shots as Pointers advance
LEWISTON, Maine -- Pucks whizzed at Brandon Jaeger from every direction as a desperate Oswego State team hunted for a tying goal. But, for the last 49 minutes and 49 seconds of Friday night's NCAA Division III national semifinal, the Wisconsin-Stevens Point goaltender didn't let a single one get by him.
Jaeger turned in a heroic effort Friday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, turning away 45 Oswego State shots -- including 33 during the final two periods -- to make Joe Kalisz's second-period power play goal stand up as the deciding tally in the Pointers' 2-1 win that sent the school to its first national championship game since 1998.
A junior from Champlin, Minn., Jaeger didn't mind the onslaught of shots at all.
"You definitely kind of just get in a zone when there's a lot of shots," Jaeger said. "You don't really have time to think about every shot like you're just sitting back there all night. It helps you stay focused and mentally in the game."
Jaeger, who entered Friday with a 19-5-1 record, a .924 save percentage and a 1.92 goals-against average, was on point nearly the entire night, save for Oswego State's opening goal just past the midway point of the first period when Shawn Hulshof finished off a cross-ice fed from David Titanic.
Beyond that, Jaeger saw anything that came his way and turned it aside.
"I thought the guys did a really good job of defending and allowing him to see pucks," UW-Stevens Point coach Chris Brooks said. "When he can see pucks, he's as good as they come. I thought he did a great job anticipating what was going on."
The Pointers (22-5-2) were particularly good in front of Jaeger in the third period as the Lakers threw everything at the net in search of the tying goal. Oswego State put 18 shots on goal in the period, and a great deal more would have gotten on Jaeger's net were it not for timely deflections and blocks.
"I thought we did a great job getting into lanes, I thought we did a great job finding sticks," Brooks said.
Never was Jaeger more tested than in the opening moments of the third period, when Sean Gammage and Scott Henegar took penalties within 15 seconds of each other, leading to a two-man Oswego State advantage for a minute and 45 seconds.
The Lakers threw five shots at Jaeger during the power play, but couldn't get one past him.
"I thought special teams were the difference in the game," Brooks said.
The constant pressure never paying off with a tying goal was a sore point for Oswego State head coach Ed Gosek, who felt his team came away with the loss despite producing the better scoring chances.
"I think when we break the film down this coming week, we'll see that we had more Grade-A opportunities, the puck just didn't fall for us," said Gosek, whose team fell short of a national title in its fifth consecutive Division III national semifinals appearance. For Brooks, the semifinal win was a testament to the Pointers' team-first philosophy.
"We talk about it all the time, when you build a puzzle, you don't build it with all outside pieces," he said. "You need those inner pieces, you need the outer pieces, you need the corner pieces. That's the thing with our team this year -- even though everybody's different, the whole puzzle doesn't come together until you have all those pieces."
Now, the Pointers will take on Wisconsin rival St. Norbert in Saturday's championship game at 7 p.m. For Jaeger, that means he'll be staring directly across the ice at the Green Knights' David Jacobson, the nation's top goalie and winner of the Sid Watson Award as the Division III national player of the year.
That doesn't faze him one bit.
"Jacobson's a great goalie. The three years I've been here I've been playing against him, and every game he brings his best," Jaeger said. "Obviously, that makes me have to elevate my play and do as best I can knowing he's not gonna give us any easy ones."