LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The Colby College and St. Norbert men’s hockey teams have two things in common – great goaltending and balanced scoring on the roster – heading into Friday’s NCAA Division III Tournament semifinal game.
The Mules (17-10-2 overall) and the top-ranked Green Knights (25-4-1) meet at 6:30 p.m. in the second of two semifinal games at Herb Brooks Arena. Wisconsin Stevens Point and Salve Regina play in the first game at 3 p.m. The semifinal winners play for the national championship Saturday at 7 p.m. The webcast can be viewed here.
Colby senior goalie Sean Lawrence ranks second in the country in save percentage (.941) and has made 802 saves this season. St. Norbert goaltender T.J. Black is third in save percentage (.940) and has a 25-3-1 record.
“Their goalie has been playing very well,” said Blaise MacDonald, the Jack Kelley Head Coach of Men’s Hockey. “We need to play on the interior and get pucks and bodies to the net. We have already played and had success against good goalies and we face one every day in practice.”
St. Norbert has been tough to beat because of its scoring depth, with 17 players with 10 points or more but no one over 29 points. The Mules have 11 players with 10 points or more and no one with more than 26 points.
“We have had many different guys step up and be productive,” MacDonald said. “That takes the pressure off of some of our top scorers. We feel very good about the quality of depth on this team.”
Three players with four goals or less have scored in the last three playoff games. Zack Hale had Colby’s first goal in the NESCAC championship win over Trinity College. Joe Schuler added a big goal against University of New England in the NCAA first round, while Thomas Stahlhuth scored the first goal of the quarterfinal victory against SUNY Geneseo.
Justin Grillo’s seventh goal of the season was the biggest of the season – and possibly in program history – when he tallied with 1.6 seconds remaining to help Colby to a 2-1 win over Geneseo. He has had a terrific first year with 23 total points.
Sophomore forward Kienan Scott (11 goals, 15 assists) and senior forward Phil Klitirinos (8 goals, 18 assists) lead Colby with 26 points. Cam MacDonald has a team-best 15 goals and 10 assists for 25 points. Nick O’Connor (11 goals, 13 assists), Grillo, and Michael Rudolf (9 goals, 11 assists) are other scorers with 20 points or more.
Four of the top eight scorers for the Green Knights are first-year players. However, senior forward Tanner Froese (12 goals, 17 assists) has a team-best 29 points. Sophomore Dominick Sacco has 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points.
St. Norbert, which has won 10 straight games, has been one of the most dominant programs in Division III hockey over the past 15 years. The Green Knights have made 11 appearances in the Frozen Four and have won four national titles.
Colby, playing in the NCAA tourney for the second time and the first time since 1996, were 10-10 at one point this season and just worried about making the league playoffs. MacDonald, a veteran coach with NCAA experience as a player and coach, and his team are 7-0-2 since then.
“It was a day-by-day process that has gotten the guys to this point and the emphasis was on daily approach to practice and the execution of a good practice and a new mindset,” MacDonald said. “We also made a few changes in our systems that helped put guys in a better place to have success.”