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SNC’s Mark, McChesney earn silver medals with Team USA

Michael McChesney, Brendan Mark
Michael McChesney (left) and Brendan Mark earned silver medals with Team USA at the World University Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Gabe Dickens. Photo for St. Norbert Athletics

By Rich Palzewic

Contributing Writer

DE PERE – “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent your country, so it was a no-brainer.”

Those were the words of St. Norbert College men’s hockey coach Tim Coghlin regarding allowing three of his players — Brendan Mark, Michael McChesney and Adam Stacho — to participate in the 2023 Winter World University Games in January.

The seniors Mark and McChesney played for Team USA, while the junior Stacho skated for Team Slovakia in the 12-team tournament, which was held Jan. 11-22 in upstate New York.

Team USA’s 23-player roster was comprised entirely of NCAA Division III players — the first time they have represented the United States at the World University Games.

“I was part of the setup committee when we decided to send Division III players,” Coghlin said. “I supported the decision and was in charge of polling the western coaches. Some schools across the country did not allow their players to go. Slovakia reached out to us first to ask about (Stacho). Our guys showed well. The feedback I got back from the coaches was they appreciated the leadership the St. Norbert guys showed. Nobody can convince it wasn’t an absolute slam dunk to send our guys.”

It was the first time the games were played in the United States since being held in Lake Placid in 1972.

“The University Games are not just about hockey,” Coghlin said. “It’s the second largest event held in the world — next to the Olympics. Twenty-two sports were going on — Lake Placid was crawling.”

Team USA, which finished 5-2 overall in the tournament, advanced to the championship game on Jan. 22, falling 7-2 in the gold medal game to Canada at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid — the same venue where the Green Knights have won three of their national championships.

“I can’t put into words how awesome it was to be there — especially with a couple of teammates,” said McChesney, a forward from Dickinson, N.D.

The silver medal for Team USA was the highest ever finish in ice hockey at the World University Games.

“We couldn’t pass up this opportunity,” said Mark, a defenseman from Grand Rapids, Minn, and also a captain for Team USA. “It was my greatest hockey memory getting to put on the

Red, White and Blue.”

Team Slovakia started fast in the tournament, winning its first three games before dropping its last two to finish 3-2 overall — missing the medal round because of goal differential.

“It was an honor representing my country and St. Norbert,” he said. “Off the ice, it was fun to hang out with (Michael and Brendan) a bit, too. There was a village area we could socialize.”

Mark and McChesney played in all seven games for Team USA. Mark scored three goals and added an assist for four points, while McChesney recorded a goal.

Playing on Team Slovakia’s first line, Stacho recorded two goals and four assists in his five games played during the tournament.

Going for gold

In the gold medal game, Canada jumped out to a 4-0 lead and led 5-1 after two periods.

Mark scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal in the third period to cut the deficit to 5-2, but the Canadians added a pair of goals to secure the victory. Canada had a 47-19 shots-on-goal advantage.

“Canada was a great team,” McChesney said. “They were big, fast and moved the puck well. Most people probably think we were overmatched, but I think we just started slow. In the second period, it was more evenly matched before we took too many penalties.”

Coghlin said Team Canada looked like a Division I all-star team.

“Canada had seven NHL picks on their roster and probably 12 guys with professional experience,” he said. “Through one thing or another, those players found themselves out of the

pro path and were using their school opportunity to go back to school.”

Teammates face off

Earlier in the tournament, Team USA hammered Great Britain 18-0 before bettering the Republic of Korea, 8-0.

Team USA then fell to Stacho and his Slovakian teammates, 5-2.

“That was special,” said Stacho, a Trnava, Slovakia, native. “All three of us chatted after the game.”

Stacho has seven goals and seven assists in 18 games for St. Norbert this season.

“It was a Sunday afternoon game, so all the guys game to the locker room to watch,” Coghlin said. “We catered some food in — we watched the game live. It was an eye-opener. It was the first time the U.S. got pushed in the tournament.”

Team USA also recorded 4-1 and 9-1 victories over Kazakhstan and Hungary, respectively, in pool play before bettering Japan in the semifinals, 4-3.

In the win over Japan, Mark scored a late first-period goal to give Team USA a 3-2 lead heading into the first intermission.

Adrian College’s Sam Ruffin scored 1:12 into the 10-minute overtime period to give Team USA the semifinal victory.

A new voice

Hobart College coach Mark Taylor led Team USA, while St. Norbert alumnus Mike Szkodzinski was one of the assistant coaches and worked with the goaltenders.

“It was different — (Taylor) had a lot of different philosophies,” said McChesney, who has 14 goals and 13 assists in 19 games for St. Norbert this season. “In a short time like that, it was difficult to set straight-line hockey things, but it was fun to see different ideas.”

Mark, who has two goals and five assists in 19 games in 2022-23 for the Green Knights, agreed with McChesney.

“The coaches let us be free,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of firm structure, so we used our hockey IQ and creativity.”

Returning home

While at the University Games, the three players each missed four games for St. Norbert.

“It wasn’t too difficult getting back into the swing of things here,” Mark said. “Michael and I are seniors, so we used the same philosophy at the tournament as we do here. It was good to get back home after a great experience.”

Coghlin said it was less about losing those three players — it was what happened next that affected his team.

“In the first game we played without those three guys, we lost three defensemen immediately due to injury,” he said. “We nursed our roster those entire three weeks until we got those guys back. We played shorthanded with five defensemen and 11 forwards almost every night — you couldn’t draw that up.”

Peters Cup on the line

St. Norbert and Adrian face off this weekend at the Cornerstone Community Center for the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) regular-season championship.

The Green Knights (14-7-2 overall, 11-4-1 NCHA – 36 points) can win the Peters Cup with a win and by getting the other game to at least overtime, which would garner them four points total.

St. Norbert can also win the regular-season crown by earning a pair of overtime wins.

The Bulldogs (18-3-2, 12-3-1 – 37 points) are currently ranked No. 3 nationally in Division III.

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