Norwich, St. Norbert meet in finals rematch

Norwich University’s Pier-Oliver Cotnoir netted the game-winning goal with 31 seconds remaining in double overtime, defeating St. Norbert College, 2-1, last season in the NCAA National Championship game at Herb Brooks Arena to give the Cadets their third national championship in program history.

One year later, the two teams meet in the NCAA Semifinal at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn., where St. Norbert looks to get revenge after last season’s crushing loss to end its season. Unlike last season, the Green Knights come into the contest with the Cadets as the tournament favorites, ranked No. 1 in the USCHO. com Men’s Hockey Poll. Norwich sits at No. 2 in the nation coming into the Frozen Four.

Norwich, ECAC East champions, kept its hopes of defending its title after defeating SUNY Plattsburgh, 3-2 in overtime, in a mild upset at Ronald B. Stafford Arena in Plattsburgh, N.Y., in the NCAA Quarterfinal. Norwich’s Chad Anderson scored the game-winning goal at 17:43 of overtime to send the Cadets back to the Frozen Four. Prior to the quarterfinal win, Norwich had lost its previous two games to the Cardinals. The Cadets are the only team to appear in this year’s Frozen Four that didn’t receive a first-round bye in the NCAA Tournament. Norwich (22-5-3 overall) defeated Curry College, 5-1, in the NCAA First Round.

St. Norbert comes into the Frozen Four as arguably the best of the four teams in the field. The Green Knights, champions of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA), shutout Hamline University, 4-0, in a NCAA Quarterfinal Round game at Cornerstone Arena in Green Bay, Wisc., to advance to Minneapolis. The Green Knights (23-4-1 overall) are looking to capture their second national championship in program history. Their first title came back in 2008 with a 2-0 victory over Plattsburgh in Lake Placid, N.Y.

In a classic unstoppable offense vs. immovable defense matchup, Norwich’s fourth-ranked offense goes head-to-head with St. Norbert’s top-ranked defense. The Cadets’ offense averages 4.33 goals per game, second most of the Frozen Four teams behind Adrian’s top-ranked 5.04 goals per game. The offensive attack is led by sophomore forward Scott Schroeder, who ranks 12th in scoring with 39 points on 20 goals and 19 assists. Freshman forward Travis Janke and Cotnoir round out the Cadets’ top three scorers. Janke’s 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) and Cotnoir’s 36 points (20 goals, 16 assists) helped lead a Norwich offense that scored six or more goals eight times this season, including a 10-2 victory over the University of New England.

On the opposite side is St. Norbert and its defensive-minded strategy, allowing a league-best 1.75 goals per game. The Green Knights tallied five shutouts this season, including shutouts over nationally-ranked Hamline and Wisconsin-Superior. A reason for their success on the defensive end is their discipline, committing only 13.3 penalty minutes per game. When on the penalty kill, St. Norbert successfully killed off 88.5 percent of power play opportunities by opponents. The Green Knights are used to close games and coming from behind, as they hold an 8-2 record in one-goal games and a 10-3-0 record when opponents score first. When they have the lead after two periods, St. Norbert is nearly unbeatable, going 14-0-1 in such games.

The St. Norbert offense consists of a balanced attack, as its leading scorer, Cody Keefer, totaled just 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 26 games played this season. Keefer’s last-minute goal in last season’s NCAA Semifinal ended Oswego State’s season. St. Norbert’s power play, which ranks 15th in the country at 23.58 percent, won’t have many opportunities against Norwich, as the Cadets commit an average of just 9.8 penalty minutes per game.

A low scoring game is to be expected, as both teams have solid goaltending. St. Norbert’s B.J. O’Brien leads all of Division III in both goals against average (1.58) and save percentage (.931). Norwich’s Parker Carroll has yet to lose in net with a 14-0-2 record in net. Carroll also ranks second in goals against average (1.75) and leads the nation in shutouts (four).

St. Norbert and Norwich will drop the puck in its 2010 National Championship rematch on Friday, March 25 at 8 p.m. following the Oswego State/Adrian College game at 4:30 p.m. The National Championship Game will take place on Saturday, March 26, at 8 p.m.