St. Norbert’s Nick Tabisz netted the eventual game-winning goal at 15:26 of the second period and the Green Knights held on to capture its second national championship, 4-3, over Adrian College on Saturday night at Ridder Arena in the NCAA Division III National Championship Game.
St Norbert’s leading scorer Cody Keefer scored twice in a game that featured three ties and goalie B.J. O’Brien recorded 18 saves on 21 shots to deny the Bulldogs their first national title.
Keefer tallied the game’s first goal at 4:15 of the first period with a wrist shot from the slot that deflected off Adrian goalie Brad Fogal’s leg pads before bouncing off the top of his helmet and into the back of the net.
"I just kind of tried throwing it on net and it ended up going in," Keefer said. "Obviously, that’s a good bounce and I think it definitely jump started us."
Adrian countered with its first goal of the game at 10:49 of the first period scored by Sam Kuzyk. Trailing by a goal mid way through the first period, Adrian’s Mike Dahlinger skated the puck up the near side of the Green Knight’s defensive zone, taking two of the three defenders with him. Dahlinger found Kuzyk in the slot, who one-timed a shot over the glove-side shoulder of O’Brien to tie the game.
The Green Knights retook the lead on the power play at 13:01 of the first period as the result of a failed clear attempt by an Adrian defenseman. St. Norbert’s Nick Tabisz corralled the puck at the blue line and tossed a shot on net that deflected off Fogal and onto the stick of Johan Ryd. Ryd wristed a shot from right in front of the net to regain the lead.
The back-and-forth game continued into the second period, where Adrian again tied the game. Adrian’s Andrew Dovey stole the puck at the blue line and wristed the puck toward the net, where Kyle Watson was in perfect position to receive the pass. Watson skated in on net and wristed a shot over the blocker-side shoulder to tie the game at two.
Keefer gave St. Norbert the lead again with a slap shot from the slot that beat Fogal on his glove side for the Green Knights’ second power-play goal of the game. Brandon Longley centered a pass in front to Brandon Hoogenboom, who one-timed a shot that was blocked aside by Fogal. The puck ricocheted back to the slot, where Keefer blasted a shot past Fogal.
Adrian’s Eric Miller tied the game for the third and final time at 14:27 of the second period with a shot right in front of the net. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer Shawn Skelly fought himself free of a St. Norbert defenseman and wristed a shot on net from the far side faceoff circle. Skelly’s shot grazed O’Brien’s goalie pads on its way through the crease and landing on Miller’s stick for an easy goal.
The Green Knights broke the tie for the final time less than a minute later on the power play. With the man advantage, Ryd fired a slap shot through traffic that was redirected by Tabisz for the game’s final goal.
The Bulldogs could not register the equalizing goal, managing only five shots on net. Adrian pulled Fogal for the extra attacker with 55 seconds remaining, but couldn’t put the puck past O’Brien to send the game into overtime. The Green Knights held the Adrian offense to 18 shots for the game.
After going 3-for-4 on the power play in its semifinal win over Oswego State, Adrian was unable to take advantage of its opportunities with the extra man, finishing 0-for-2. St. Norbert capitalized on its chances, finishing 3-for-5 on the power play.
"I thought, obviously, their power play was the difference [and] our inability to stay out of the box," said Adrian coach Ron Fogarty. "I’ve said for four years if you can win the special teams [battle], you have a great shot of winning the game, and they beat us in that facet of the game today."
O’Brien, Tabisz and Keefer were named to the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team for the champion Green Knights. Adrian’s Jeremy Klaver and Skelly also earned the honor.
"We put it all out there and came up a goal short," said Adrian All-American forward Shawn Skelly, another All-Tournament Team selection. "It’s been a great year, the 17 seniors gave it their all . . . we just couldn’t finish it out."