LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Playing in their third national championship game in three years, Wisconsin-Stevens Point finally earned that elusive national title with a complete 5-1 win over St. Norbert on Saturday.
The Pointers turned the tables on the Green Knights, scoring three power-play goals to break open a close game, and earned their fifth national championship and first since 1993.
St. Norbert’s overtime hero from Friday night, Noah Nelson took a hooking penalty just 40 seconds in and with one second remaining on the man advantage, Eliot Grauer beat goalie Tony Kujava on the short side off the post and just across the goal line for an early 1-0 lead.
Grauer, who was named to the all-tournament team and received the Most Outstanding Player award for the Frozen Four, was happy his shot found its way in.
“There were about eight seconds left on the power play I think when I got the pass and I saw a little opening and used the defenseman as a screen and it found some room,” he said.
“Eliot was excellent both nights,” said Pointers coach Chris Brooks. “We don’t win many hockey games without Sharkey, Cornellier and that line scoring goals for us. We did last night and Eliot was a big part of that. I thought all our guys stepped up, especially after Joe Kalisz went down.”
The Knights answered with a power-play goal of their own, sort of, when Tanner Froese was credited with a goal that was re-directed off the stick of the Pointers’ Lawrence Cornellier past Max Milosek and the game was tied with just over 10 minutes remaining in the period.
“Corny is an emotional player,” Brooks said. “He wears his heart on his sleeve and I told him that what is done is done. Go make up for it and he did — boy did he make up for it. I think they had six or seven quality chances on the shift before they scored and he made the most of his opportunity later.”
Alex Brooks then scored the eventual game winner with just over one minute remaining in the opening period when he launched into a loose puck between the circles and blasted it past a helpless Kujava for a 2-1 lead they would build on through the next two periods.
“I was disappointed that I hit the post on the first chance,” Brooks said. “The second one I just wanted to make sure of it.”
St. Norbert, coming off a double-overtime game that went late into the night on Friday, showed good energy in the second period but neither team could convert on some good opportunities due to the strong play of Kujava and Milosek.
Late in the second period, the Pointers scored an insurance goal as Kyle Sharkey scored with under 90 seconds remaining in the period for a 3-1 lead entering the third period.
“At 2-1, we are still OK after the first period,” said St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin. “We were looking for that big event to turn the tide and we thought if we got to 2-2, then that could be the momentum shift. At 3-1, we were back in the room talking about taking too many penalties, something that was a problem for us all year, and we couldn’t get the tide to change. They went 3-for-3 on the power play, three in a row and that hurt us tonight.”
In the third period, the Pointers took advantage of St. Norbert pressing to get back in the game and the line of Barber, Sharkey and Cornellier accounted for two goals to remove all doubt from the outcome.
Cornellier made up for his “own goal” by cashing in on a beautiful feed from Sharkey on a two-on-one break created by beautiful passing from their defensive end. Barber completed the scoring just a few minutes later on another great back-door pass and the Knights had no response to the Pointers’ game.
For captain Eric Dixon, there was a sense of satisfaction in finishing the goal by winning the national title.
“Our guys really bought in and stepped up so we could be on the winning end of the championship game this year,” Dixon said. “It was a total team effort and I am really proud to be part of this team and this championship run.”
The national championship avenged a loss in the title game to St. Norbert in 2014 when the Frozen Four was played in Lewiston, Maine.
• Eric Dixon was the Division III recipient of the Elite 90 Award presented to the player participating in the championship weekend with the highest GPA.
• The fifth championship moves Wisconsin-Stevens Point past St. Norbert into sole possession of second place, behind only Middlebury College, has eight titles.
• The all-tournament team included forwards Eliot Grauer from UWSP, Eric Cooper from St. Norbert and Frankie DeAugustine from Massachusetts-Boston. The defensemen were Alex Brooks from UWSP and Blake Thompson from St. Norbert, with Max Milosek from the Pointers being named as the goaltender.
• Attendance on championship night was 2,304.
• Next year’s championship weekend will be held in Utica, N.Y., with the tournament returning to Lake Placid in 2018.