The SUNY-Geneseo Knights punched their ticket to the Division III Frozen Four on Sunday thanks to Tyler Brickler’s hat trick in a 3-2 victory over the Norwich University Cadets.
But Brickler credits his teammates for getting the Knights to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“It’s great memories, that’s for sure,” Brickler said of defeating Norwich. “We have been getting different guys all year long stepping up — whether it’s myself or fourth liners. It’s not necessarily scoring the goals. It’s blocking the shots, it’s competing and staying disciplined throughout the game. That’s what won us (the game).”
Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said everything was clicking for Brickler in that showdown against the Cadets.
“He was in a zone (Sunday),” Schultz said. “I think it was his best game of the year. I mean, obviously, if you score three goals in our game to beat Norwich, you are doing something right. He was just in a zone. He had that look in the eye like he wanted the puck. He wanted to be out there every other shift. He put the team on his back there and the middle section of the game, and he did an unbelievable job creating scoring opportunities for his line mates.”
Brickler, a junior, is the team’s leading scorer with 18 goals and 14 assists this season. He didn’t start his collegiate career at Geneseo. The Riverwoods, Ill., native was recruited by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks of Hockey East in the 2010-11 season by current Colby College head coach Blaise MacDonald after Brickler spent a year and a half with the Westside Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League.
He suffered a knee injury in the first half of his first season at Lowell, only appearing in 11 games. He decided then to focus more on school.
“I went to (UMass-Lowell) and I loved it there,” Brickler said. “ I liked it a lot. The boys were great and everything, but I got injured in the first half of the season. I tore my knee and my MCL. When it came to the end of the year, I made the decision to transfer. I was looking elsewhere because I felt I needed to play this game I loved so much. It came down to a couple of schools, and I loved Geneseo and everything it has to offer.”
Schultz said some players have a difficult time making the transition from Division I to Division III, but Brickler’s move was smooth.
“For Tyler, he fell on the no-adjustment category simply because he had the dynamic speed,” Schultz said. “If you have speed, there’s no adjustment needed to be made in games. He possesses a strong skill set and dynamic speed. “Other players and teams have to adjust to him.”
Last year, his first year with the Knights, he potted nine goals and added 12 assists in 24 games, tied for fourth in scoring on the team.
Brickler said he did have to adjust to the different style game at the Division III level.
“The (State University of New York Athletic Conference) is such a competitive conference as is,” Brickler said. “I felt it was more difficult going from D-I to D-III than it was going to from juniors to D-I. It’s because it almost felt grittier. The coaches have done a great job to instill all the confidence in me and I have all the confidence in coach. ”
Schultz knew how to get the most out of Tyler and that meant giving him free rein to be creative on offense.
“We run our systems, don’t get me wrong,” Schultz said. “Out of the four teams in the final four this year, we probably have the loosest reins on our guys. The one thing I don’t like to do is to take creativity away from our players.”