Game-winner from Spethmann carries St. Norbert to win
By Murray Gleffe
ASHWAUBENON – Michael Spethmann scored 56 seconds into overtime to lift the No. 6-ranked St. Norbert College men’s hockey team to a 4-3 win over St. Olaf College in a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) first-round game March 12 at the Cornerstone Community Ice Center in Ashwaubenon.
“The improbable run St. Olaf was on was very probable,” St. Norbert Head Coach Tim Coghlin said. “They stuck to their game plan. It took everything we had in the tank to come back and find a way to win it in overtime.”
Peter Bates whizzed a pass to Spethmann in the opening minute of overtime for the game-winner.
“Internally, we always joke that (Spethmann) is going to have to bury one sooner or later,” Coghlin said. “This was a big one to find the back of the net to move on.”
With the victory, the Green Knights advanced to take on Augsburg University March 19 in a quarterfinal matchup for the right to go to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four in Lake Placid, New York.
“They’ve (Augsburg) been to the NCAA tournament several years in a row,” Coghlin said. “We know each other well. In the series back in November, we didn’t have Peyton Frantti and Colby Entz. We’ll rely on those pieces back in play Saturday.”
St. Norbert was fortunate to be playing in the extra session after trailing 3-1 with about 16 minutes remaining in the game.
Liam Fraser and Brendan Mark each scored for the Green Knights to even the game in the third period, setting up the dramatic finish.
St. Norbert outshot St. Olaf, 51-26.
Entz made 23 saves in net for St. Norbert, while Lukas Haugen stopped 47 shots for the Oles.
St. Olaf, which came into the contest as the only sub .500 team to ever make the NCAA Division III tournament, didn’t look like a prohibitive underdog to start.
The Oles (11-15-3 overall) scored 65 seconds into the game when Tyler Cooper found the upper right corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
With a little more than eight minutes remaining in the first, St. Olaf tallied a second goal by Parker Casey on a stick back.
The Green Knights (24-6) got on the board minutes later.
Ian Famulak flipped a puck into the St. Olaf zone, and it took a funny bounce off the boards.
Haugen reacted to his left, but St. Norbert’s Evan Cholak quickly corralled the puck and found the open net to bring St. Norbert to within 2-1 after the first intermission.
“I told the guys, ‘We have to figure this out,’” Coghlin said. “We can’t keep outscoring teams, especially St. Olaf, who can pack it in.”
Each team had a few opportunities early in the second period, but both goaltenders remained stout between the pipes.
A bit later, the Oles took a 3-1 lead after Matthew Pointer sent a picture-perfect pass to a cutting Jonathan Young, who easily lit the lamp.
With their season on the line, Fraser brought the Green Knights to within 3-2 with 15:46 remaining.
The goal was set up by Peter Bates, who flew down the ice and sent a shot on goal that Fraser jammed into the back of the net seconds later.
In the ensuing minutes, the Oles took three penalties.
The final one cost them their lead.
With about seven minutes left, St. Olaf got caught with too many players on the ice.
After the center faceoff, St. Norbert’s Brendan Aird found Mark, who buried the power-play goal to even the score at 3-3.
“The power play was big,” Coghlin said. “Opposing teams have to clutch and grab. You have to make your decisions quickly against St. Olaf or you don’t get pucks through.”