LEWISTON — Top-ranked defense. Most outstanding player (and goaltender). Noses for the net up and down the bench. Frozen Four experience by the bushel.

It all adds up, unequivocally, to the best hockey team in NCAA Division III.

Smothering and self-assured Saint Norbert College stormed to its third national championship in four years and fourth overall Saturday night, tripping up Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 3-1, in front of 1,851 at Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

Joe Perry, Erik Cooper and Marian Fiala each scored a goal for St. Norbert, which capped its title run with 11 consecutive wins and a mark of 28-3-1. Perry, who scored three goals in the two games, was named most outstanding player.

“It’s been an unbelievable four years here,” Perry said. “I never would have expected to win three national championships. I’m lost for words.”

Perry and Cooper scored in an 11-second span of the first period, shattering the record for quickest back-to-back goals in the championship game.

“We got an early lead and played with it for most of the night,” St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin said. “When we’ve been able to do that, and make other teams have to challenge, I think our structure, our senior class and especially our goaltending allow us to do some things that are difficult.”

Junior goaltender David Jacobson — winner of the Sid Watson Award as the top player in Division III — made 23 saves to seal his second title between the pipes.

Senior Garrett Ladd notched the goal in his final game for Stevens Point (22-6-2), which was making its first appearance in the title tilt since 1998.

On the heels of his brilliant 45-save performance in the semifinals, Pointers netminder Brandon Jaeger stopped 26 shots.

Ladd’s goal by way of Joe Kalisz and Sean Gammage cut the Pointers’ deficit to 2-1 at 45 seconds of the third period, breaking up what had the earmarks of Jacobson’s eighth shutout.

“The puck had eyes,” Ladd said. “It was a big momentum swing and we thought it might help us break the seal, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Scott Henegar then had an almost immediate crack at the equalizer. Jacobson hit the deck to knock it down, and no Pointers were able to pounce while the net was open.

Fiala finished it at 5:47.

One second after the expiration of a St. Norbert power play, the junior defenseman took advantage of a clear lane and buried one from a sharp angle along the boards beyond the right circle.

“Late in the second period, early in the third, they were putting a lot of pressure on us in our power play,” Fiala said. “We weren’t getting many shots, so toward the end of the power play to be honest I just closed my eyes, took a shot, and I don’t really remember the rest.”

Three was a magic number. St. Norbert only allowed that many goals four times all season.

Stevens Point pulled Jaeger with two minutes remaining but could only put two additional shots on net. Jacobson denied Kevin Gibson early and Kyle Sharkey at the horn to touch off the frenzied celebration.

“He made four or five tonight that were just ‘wow’ saves,” Coghlin said.

Gibson also hit the post in the third period, continuing a pattern of close-but-no-strobe-lights that plagued both teams throughout the evening.

“It was two great teams battling all night,” Wisconsin-Stevens Point coach Chris Brooks said. “There were so many momentum swings in that game. It would have been nice to get a bounce here, a bounce there.”

Both goaltenders benefited from an early carom off the iron.

Lawrence Cornellier rang the post behind Jacobson. Later, Michael Hill hoisted a resounding shot that nearly eluded Jaeger.

Jaeger opened the game by quickly finding his rhythm from Friday’s late semifinal, in which he helped Stevens Point stave off Oswego State, 2-1. He stopped four shots on the Pointers’ first penalty kill, albeit while leaving some rebounds lying perilously in the slot.

And when St. Norbert finally did get one past Jaeger, it decided two were better.

Perry gave the Green Knights the lead at 13:06. The senior, who topped the 100-point career threshold earlier in the playoffs, scored on a wraparound to Jaeger’s right after Tyler Zepeda’s initial bid screamed wide of the cage and rattled off the boards.

“If we lost this game, it would have been devastating to me,” Perry said. “I probably would have thought about it the rest of my life.”

After the ensuing faceoff, Cooper cashed in with a clean look from the slot at 13:17, courtesy of Hill and Blake Thompson.

“We were down 2-0 after the first period and I loved the way we played in that period. That’s hockey,” Brooks said. “I told them to stay the course, trust themselves, trust the systems and trust what made us successful to this point and we would get an opportunity, and we did.”

St. Norbert snuffed out Stevens Point’s best opportunity to crawl back into it with a pair of penalty kills early in the second period.

Senior defenseman Zach MacDonald anchored each special teams gem, most notably by eating up a blast from the point with his ankle on the second sequence. MacDonald struggled to the bench but returned to cause the Pointers additional headaches.

Video review spared the Pointers what would have been a devastating 3-0 deficit midway through the second period.

Hill’s wrister from the right circle appeared to catch the crossbar, but made little noise and deflected wildly back into play as if it also might have found a piece of the net.

The lengthy second look upheld the original call of no goal at 13:23.

Cooper made yet another St. Norbert connection with the crossbar late in the period.

“Every game has its ebb and flow. One team pushes and the other team pushes back,” Coghlin said. “There hasn’t been a game all year where we haven’t pushed back some more.”

Perry, Fiala and Jacobson led the all-tournament team. Kalisz and Kyle Brodie of Stevens Point also earned those honors along with Shawn Hulshof of Oswego State.


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