Friday, March 15th
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - For the third straight season the Norwich University men's ice hockey team saw its season come to a close in the NCAA Division III Tournament Semifinals.
After heading into the third period tied at 2, Oswego State (25-4-0) scored three unanswered goals to pull away from the Cadets (24-4-1) en route to a 6-3 victory on Friday afternoon at the Herb Brooks Arena. The Lakers also punched their ticket to their second straight national championship game and fifth overall appearance in program history.
Oswego senior forward Chris Muise scored two goals in the third period, including the Lakers' third goal to give them their first lead of the game at 6:14 mark. Tyler Leimbrock and Matt Singleton would add the backbreakers though for the Lakers scoring just 1:43 apart past the midway point of the period to completely deflate Norwich's hopes of getting back to the national championship for the first time since winning it in 2010.
Muise beat Norwich junior goaltender Chris Czarnota to his stick side off a partial 3-on-1 break with a back checking Corey Hale frantically throwing his stick towards Muise to partially deflect the puck and catch the NU goalie off guard while beating him just inside the right post.
A little under six minutes later at the 12:04 mark of the period, Leimbrock finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe play for his 12th goal of the season off assists from David Titanic and Muise. Titanic fed the puck to Muise standing at the top of the left faceoff circle and then without hesitation Muise fired the puck over to Leimbrock who was curling around to the right side of the cage and he tapped the puck past Czarnota for the eventual game-winning goal.
Norwich head coach Mike McShane called timeout to try and rally the Cadets for another dramatic late comeback. However, it wasn't meant to be for NU as Oswego scored the backbreaker under two minutes later when Singleton picked off an outlet pass from a NU defenseman right on top of the cage. Singleton waited for Czarnota to make a move and then he flipped the puck past the Cadet goalie to the right side of the net.
Sophomore defenseman Corey Hale briefly cut the lead to 5-3 with 2:11 left with a slap shot from the point off an assist from Colin Mulvey, but it was too little too late for Norwich. Muise capped the scoring by tucking a shot just underneath the cross bar with the goalie pulled to regain the three-goal lead again for Oswego State.
Norwich struck first blood needing just 20 seconds to break open the scoring as senior captain forward Pier-Olivier Cotnoir beat Oswego State senior goalie Andrew Hare to the left side of the net from the middle of the slot to put the Cadets up 1-0 off assists from Bryce Currier and Kyle Thomas. The goal was Cotnoir's 13th of the season.
The Cadets nearly went up 2-0 just a few minutes later but Cotnoir was turned away by a pad save from Hare and then Nevin Lawler rang a shot off the cross bar moments later.
Oswego State countered at the 3:18 mark of the first when Paul Rodrigues, the 2013 Sid Watson Award winner (National D-III Player of the Year) shoveled a puck into a wide open net after Czarnota tripped on a loose stick in the crease and couldn't stand up to get over to Rodrigues' shot.
Norwich took the lead again 8:06 into the second period when Thomas scored off a signature set faceoff play when he chased down an indirect outlet pass off a faceoff win by Dean Niezgoda and a stretch pass from Hale. Thomas beat Hare five-hole after speeding in from the left wing with a couple strides on the pair of Oswego defensemen.
However, once again Oswego State countered right back when Tim Carr sniped a shot top shelf over the blocker of Czarnota from the top of the slot off assists from Kyle Badham and Chris Carr.
Norwich almost took the lead back a little over two minutes later when Tory Allan was in alone on a breakaway after picking off an Oswego faceoff win after Erik Lyrvall was whistled for a holding penalty. Allan streaked past the Oswego defense pair and skated in on Hare but he whistled a shot inches over the cross bar from the middle of the dashes while Hare was getting ready to stack the pads.
Czarnota made 28 saves and finished with a 13-2-1 record on the season. He made more saves through two periods (25) than he had faced in a single game all season long. Hare picked up his 21st win of the year by turning aside 24 shots for the Lakers.
Friday's loss marked the final game in the Maroon & Gold sweater for five Norwich University seniors in Cotnoir, Mulvey, Thomas, Allan and Blake Forkey.
Oswego State will try to win its second national championship on Saturday night when the Lakers will face UW Eau-Claire at 7 p.m. in the 2013 NCAA Division III National Championship game. Eau Claire beat Utica 5-1 in the other semifinal on Friday night. Oswego State won its first national championship in 2007, a season where it also beat Norwich (3-0) in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals.
--- Norwich Sports Information
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