It isn’t every hockey season that a freshman goaltender leads his team to a national championship.

So after backstopping St. Norbert College’s charge to a second consecutive NCAA Division III title in March 2012, David Jacobson piled unusual on top of unusual, in the form of an unexpected request to coach Tim Coghlin.

“He came to me after that season and said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I try out for soccer?’ He played all four years in high school, but all you think about are knee injuries and things,” Coghlin said.

Coghlin didn’t stand in the goalie’s way. Jacobson not only made the team but was the Green Knights’ leading scorer on the pitch with four goals in eight games, including two game-winners, when he left to commence the hockey campaign Oct. 15.

The quest for his second consecutive title and St. Norbert’s third ended shy of the Frozen Four, with a disappointing 3-1 loss to eventual champion Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Thus ended Jacobson’s college soccer career.

“I only played sophomore year,” Jacobson said. “I still kick around with the guys once in a while, butI knew my focus needed to be here.”

Focused puts Jacobson’s junior season between the pipes mildly. Locked in is more like it.

He’s the wall for the top-ranked scoring defense in the nation. Jacobson is 22-1-1 with a 1.24 goals-against average and a save percentage of .935. Three of his shutout streaks have exceeded 149 minutes.

Jacobson was player of the year in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, a league St. Norbert — located in De Pere, Wis., about 10 minutes southwest of Green Bay — won for the fifth consecutive season.

In Lewiston, the Green Knights will play a national semifinal for the ninth time in 12 years.

“I just have to make the saves at the opportune time,” Jacobson said. “We’re usually pretty good at slowing down the other team, but I try to be there when we need me to be there.”

Coghlin didn’t ask his star goalie to step away from one of his other favorite games. The decision was voluntary and immediate.

“They put him at inside striker right away. I went and watched him a few times. He was really, really good,” Coghlin said. “Last year after we lost to Eau Claire, right away it was, ‘Maybe I need to be here more.’ He could have kept playing soccer if he wanted to, but he decided not to go back. Hockey is his passion. It’s the reason he’s at St. Norbert, and he wanted to make sure he gives these boys everything he has.”

Jacobson grew up in Janesville, nearly a three-hour drive south of the St. Norbert campus.

He was a four-sport letterman — hockey, soccer, baseball, lacrosse — at Janesville Parker High School. All-state in hockey, he excelled at the junior level for the Janesville Jets in the North American Hockey League.

“David’s just a competitor in whatever you want to play,” Coghlin said. “He doesn’t care if it’s baseball, soccer or ping-pong. Let’s go. When you have a guy like him back there, it’s easy for everyone else to get excited.”

There were no guarantees when he arrived at St. Norbert, which has been defined by defense and goaltending throughout Coghlin’s 21-year tenure.

Kyle Jones served up a Division III record 25 shutouts from 2005-08. Jacobson began his freshman year third on the depth chart in the derby to replace another All-American, B.J. O’Brien.

“I believe we were 7-4-4 at one point. We were not solid defensively. We were up-and-down,” Coghlin said. “Then we put him in. He went 14-1-1 down the stretch and we won back-to-back titles.”

Getting into a rhythm isn’t always easy for Jacobson, given his defense’s penchant for eating the puck.

When he gets his chance, he shines, repeatedly. Coghlin cited a breakaway denial of Adrian sniper Josh Ranalli — while the game was still scoreless — as the key to a 7-2 win in the national quarterfinals.

“Our biggest factor is our defense,” Jacobson said. “We’re really tough to score against.”

It was the first time St. Norbert allowed multiple goals in a game since Jan. 17, and those tallies were inconsequential in a penalty-filled third period after the Green Knights already owned a 5-0 lead.

“With our defensive focus, we need a different kind of goaltender. Sometimes a goalie sees 55 shots a game and he heats up and makes 52 or 53 saves. With our system and our style, he’s lucky if he sees 19 or 20,” Coghlin said. “Our goalies not only have to have short memories but be very focused and able to stay sharp, and David is all of those things.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: