St. Norbert College hockey preview: looking for a repeat
BY RICH PALZEWIC
DE PERE – Walking into St. Norbert College hockey coach Tim Coghlin’s office, the 2018 NCAA Division III national championship trophy and three others sit on his desk.
The Green Knights have become so successful over the years, that they’ve run out of room to display their hardware.
“Coming into Cornerstone, you will notice on the pillars that various trophies from our past are there for people to view,” Coghlin said. “We don’t have any more pillars left – we’ve run out of room to display these.”
That’s about the only problem the St. Norbert hockey team has these days.
The Green Knights will kick off the 2018-19 season Saturday, Oct. 27, when they host the Milwaukee School of Engineering at 7 p.m.
The team will also unveil its championship banner from last season before the game, where it will hang next to the other four national championships they have won.
St. Norbert won the championship last year with an overall record of 27-4-1, beating Salve Regina University 3-2 in a double overtime thriller in the finals.
Coghlin, who is beginning his 26th year behind the bench at St. Norbert, has the same lofty goals for his team every season.
“Our goal is to always get into the national tournament,” he said. “Once you make the national tournament, anything can happen. When the playoffs start, you need to be hitting your stride. It comes down to chemistry. It takes a lot to win at that time of the year and you appreciate every time that you do.”
The Green Knights began 2017 with an 11-0 record but then lost four of their next six games coming out of the Christmas break. After that mini-slump, St. Norbert didn’t lose another game the rest of the season.
If you look at this year’s roster, the Green Knights lost only 23 percent of their scoring from a year ago, with forward Tanner Froese (14 goals, 20 assists) being the main contributor that graduated.
Froese had a career year according to Coghlin – being named all-conference, first-team all-American and the most outstanding player at the Frozen Four.
“To be honest, we don’t really look at those numbers,” said Coghlin. “If you lost a certain amount of scoring from the previous season, it just creates more opportunities for others the next year. We look more at scoring defense as compared to scoring offense. We try to create our offense through our defensive posture and pressure – that trend will continue.”
St. Norbert surrendered just 1.47 goals per game a season ago.
Back in net is senior goalie T.J. Black, who has been the goalie for each of the past three seasons. Black was 27-3-1 in 2017 with a .940 save percentage and a 1.44 goals-against average.
“T.J. ranks as one of the most decorated goalies in St. Norbert history, and we’ve had some good ones,” Coghlin said. “He should be on the ballot this year for player-of-the-year and he’s already a two-time all-American. For an undersized guy (5’7), he is highly competitive and very technically sound. When you look where a team starts from, he’s where it starts for us.”
Look for returning senior forwards Steven Phillips (9, 12), Riley Christensen (6, 15), Roman Uchyn (9, 9) and Brad Pung (8, 10) to have big years scoring along with junior forwards Dominick Sacco (12, 16) and Kurt Black (9, 4).
The sophomore class is deep, with forwards Peter Bates (11, 17), Keegan Milligan (12, 13), Timmy Nicksic (6, 12), William Yates (5, 9) and Steven Mather (9, 0) leading the way.
Sophomore Luke Davison (6, 13) and seniors Nick Lesage (3, 15) and Tyler Andrews (2, 8) will add scoring pop from their defensive positions.
The Green Knights play in the rugged Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) with the likes of Adrian, Marian and the College of St. Scholastica.
“When the NCHA was re-formed with these small, private schools, the bottom teams have gotten a lot better,” said Coghlin. “It’s not that St. Norbert or Adrian are going to get any better, but those other schools have to get better to compete with us.”
The NCHA had three teams (St. Norbert, Adrian, and Marian) make the NCAA tournament last year, and was the only league in the country to have three, 20-win teams.
“I learned a long time ago from Michigan coach Red Berenson that you have to have three things to win,” Coghlin added. “You have to have a goaltender, you need senior leadership and your best players have to be your hardest workers.”
The Green Knights have all three, so look for another deep run in the postseason this year.
Coghlin also noted that having second-year associate head coach Andy Brandt back with the team is a big plus.
Brandt played at UW-Madison and was a part of the 2006 NCAA Division I national championship squad.
A native of Wausau, he spent 10 years after graduation in the professional ranks, most recently as the head coach and general manager of the Atlanta team in the East Coast Hockey League.
For the complete 2018-19 St. Norbert College hockey schedule, CLICK HERE.
To view the complete roster, CLICK HERE.
Fast facts …
- St. Norbert plays its home games at the Cornerstone Community Center located at 1640 Fernando Drive in Ashwaubenon.
- The Green Knights have appeared in 18 NCAA Division III Tournaments since 1997, highlighted by 12 Frozen Four appearances – winning the national championship in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2018, while placing as national runner-up in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2016.
- Coach Coghlin is 556-142-53 in his 25 seasons at St. Norbert, which equals a remarkable 74-percent-winning percentage.