St. Norbert hockey wins opening game of NCHA playoffs
By Rich Palzewic
ASHWAUBENON – The St. Norbert College hockey team opened the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association Harris Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 win over Finlandia University Feb. 15 at the Cornerstone Community Center.
The teams will square off again Saturday, Feb. 16, in game two of the quarterfinal series.
If No. 4-ranked St. Norbert (19-4-3) manages to tie or win the second game, they would advance to the NCHA semifinals Feb. 23 at Cornerstone. If Finlandia (8-16-2) can somehow pull off the upset in game two, there would be a 20-minute mini-game immediately following Saturday night’s contest. The winner of the mini-game would then advance to the semis.
“Finlandia does a great job of transitioning the puck, which makes it hard to possess the puck at times,” said St. Norbert assistant coach Andy Brandt. “Give their goaltender Marcus Gloss some credit – he made some big saves. Our opportunities were there, and we don’t want to lose sight of that. Our guys competed hard.”
With the victory, the Green Knights improved to 13-0 all-time against the Lions.
Despite outshooting Finlandia 12-4 in the opening period, St. Norbert couldn’t find the back of the net in the first 20 minutes.
The Knights’ best chances came when Tommy Nicksic hit the crossbar with a blast from between the circles with 3 minutes left, and then with seconds remaining, the referee initially signaled a goal on a shot and then waved it off.
In a wild 2-minute sequence to begin the second period, a St. Norbert goal was disallowed 1:24 in after the officials discussed the situation. It appeared the puck hit the post and not the back of the net.
The Green Knights used the momentum to score 16 seconds later on a Peter Bates goal for a 1-0 lead.
After some sloppy work in the defensive zone by St. Norbert, the Lions tied the game at one 29 seconds later.
Steven Phillips took a long pass from Steven Mather at the blue line and wristed in a shot with 2:09 left in the period to make it 2-1 Green Knights heading into the third.
St. Norbert goalie T.J. Black, who made 10 saves in net, came up huge in the third period to preserve the victory.
“T.J. faced a few shots from point-blank range in the third period and he made the saves,” Brandt added. “He is a rock back there and we will need him to continue that for us going forward.”
With 9 minutes remaining and Finlandia being called for a minor penalty, Black skated to the bench in exchange for the extra St. Norbert skater. Just as the puck was cleared from the Lions’ zone at the opposite end of the rink, the streaking puck missed going into the vacant net by inches.
St. Norbert: 0-2-0-2
First period: No scoring.
Second period: 1, SNC, Peter Bates (Kurt Black, Peyton Frantti), 1:40; 2, FU, Kendall Bolen-Porter (unassisted), 2:09; 3, SNC, Steven Phillips (Steven Mather, Chase Mickelson), 17:51.
Third period: No scoring.
Shots on goal: FU, 4-3-4-11; SNC, 12-10-7-29.
Goalies: FU, Marcus Gloss (29 shots, 27 saves); SNC, T.J. Black (11 shots, 10 saves).
Penalties: FU, 3-6; SNC, 3-6.
Power-play opportunities: FU, 0-for-3; SNC, 0-for-3.