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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Wisconsin-Stevens Point will get another shot at the Division III national championship. For the third consecutive year, the Pointers have made it to the final game of the season.
Stevens Point defeated Geneseo 5-1 on Friday on the strength of three first-period goals. Then, Eliot Grauer finished it off with two goals. Max Milosek needed only 11 saves for the win.
“I thought we started well with the game plan,” Stevens Point coach Chris Brooks said. “I thought we got away from it in the second period. Then we picked it back up.”
“We’ve been here before,” Grauer said. “We just stuck to the system, paid attention to detail. The system worked.”
“Stevens Point is a heck of a club,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said. “They smothered us defensively. No space in the offensive zone, and we’re not used to that. We usually dominate the offensive zone.”
After Geneseo was able to slip a player behind Stevens Point defense down the middle a couple of times early, Stevens Point took over the first period.
Jono Davis had free rein to skate all the way around the Geneseo zone before roofing it far side over Devin McDonald’s glove at 4:30.
At 8:40, Tanner Karty took a pass from Nick D’Avolio on a two-on-one break and placed it near side.
“I saw the goalie was cheating a bit and just put it in,” Karty said.
The Pointers finished off the opening period at 15:50 when Drew Graves took a pass down low, leaving him alone with the goalie. He also beat McDonald near side.
“One of our goals was to start fast,” Brooks said. “We got our defensemen involved on transition.”
Grauer scored the first of his two goals midway through the second period with a tip-in while at the backdoor from a Karty pass.
The Ice Knights finally got on the scoreboard late in the second in an unconventional way. First, while a man down with another player just coming out of the penalty box, they went in on a three-on-none, only to shoot it wide.
Seconds later, while still down a man, Geneseo got a two-on-one. This time, Rj Burns converted the one-timer on a pass from Brodie Tutton at 18:24.
“They had us on our heels,” Brooks said. “But then we took it right back to them in the next 10.”
Geneseo came alive after that, including hitting the post early in the third, but it was quieted down at 7:34 of the final period. Grauer stole the puck at the blue line, giving him a breakaway. He deked with a backhand, but put it in with his forehand.
“I think their skating was the difference,” Schultz said. “Top to bottom, we just couldn’t catch up. They were the better hockey team. It was a tough game for us.”
Geneseo managed only two shots in the final period as Stevens Point put the clamps on the game.
Geneseo (20-5-6) ended its season in the national semifinals for the second time in three years.
Stevens Point moved on to play the winner of the UMass-Boston vs. St. Norbert game Saturday night at the Herb Brooks Arena.
“We talk about this opportunity the day I start recruiting kids,” Brooks said. “They come here to win and to have an opportunity to play in a national championship game. It’s our ultimate goal at the start of the year.”
“I find it hard to believe anybody can beat that team this year,” Schultz said.
Stevens Point (23-5-2) hopes that’s the case for just one more game. The one game that’s escaped them the past two years.
Will the third time be a charm?