By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – A night after dropping the series opener to Adrian College, the No. 2-ranked Division III team in the country, the St. Norbert College men’s hockey team bounced back the next night with a convincing win.
After jumping out to a 3-0 first-period lead, the Green Knights added to their lead from there in a 6-2 victory in Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) action over the Bulldogs at the Cornerstone Community Center on Feb. 3.
St. Norbert (16-6 overall, 13-3 NCHA) got first-period goals from Liam Fraser barely three minutes into the game before Will Stromp scored five minutes later on the power play to make it 2-0.
Cameron Morris tallied a little more than a minute later to bump the lead to 3-0.
The Green Knights’ first three goals were done so on their first eight shots of the game against Adrian (17-5-1, 14-2) goalie Dershahn Stewart.
“Our start was important because we didn’t get to (Stewart) at all the night before (in a 4-1 loss),” St. Norbert Coach Tim Coghlin said. “He’s a good goaltender, and he’ll be all-conference in my mind. We needed to bounce back, so I was happy with our effort.”
Forty-five seconds into the game, Fraser had a good chance from close range but was denied by Stewart.
About a minute later, Green Knights goalie Hunter Garvey kept the game scoreless with a big save on a breakaway attempt.
St. Norbert kept the momentum going in the second period when T.J. Koufis made it 4-0 with a power-play goal at 11:41 before the Bulldogs showed some life.
Jacob Suede and Zachary Heintz scored back-to-back goals 15 seconds apart barely a minute after the Green Knights went up by four.
“Adrian is a really good team,” Coghlin said. “They play a good team game with high pace. Don’t forget – that team has been in the national championship game for two consecutive seasons.
They won it their first year and played to overtime last year. They play the game at a different level, and it’s important for our guys to see that. We have nobody on our roster who has been in (Adrian’s) spot, and their whole roster has been in that spot.”
With a bit more than four minutes remaining in the game, the Bulldogs pulled Stewart for an extra attacker.
Fraser and Brock Baker recorded empty-net goals down the stretch to end the scoring for St. Norbert.
“This has been a resilient group all year, “Coghlin said. “We played a solid game (Feb. 2 against Adrian) and didn’t get results – that’s also happened before. We need to play with a lead and play out front. Our top guys stepped up tonight.”
Garvey, a freshman from San Diego, made 31 saves in net while also adding an assist on the Stromp goal.
Mark Snarr and Baker added a pair of assists for the Green Knights.
Coghlin said a win like this has a lot of positives.
“Adrian is the top team in the West (Region),” he said. “If you look at the top teams in the MIAC, the top teams in the WIAC and the top teams in our league, we’ve beat them all. It’s a matter of getting the right group together at the right time.”
St. Norbert ends the regular season with an NCHA road series at the University of Dubuque on Feb. 9-10.