MARK COUCH | SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Currently on a five game win streak, the St. Norbert men’s hockey team has tallied 28 points this year, one point ahead of second place Adrian College (17-3-1). The Green Knights have already clinched a spot in the Harris Cup Playoffs.
Head Coach, Tim Coghlin, knows that just because a team has clinched a playoff spot, that doesn’t mean you can take it easy and coast into the playoffs. “We’ve still got challenging games left, there are still points on the table,” he said. This is the time of the season when dark horse teams can string together a few wins, find their stride coming into the playoffs and then upset tournament favorites. Coghlin has made that message clear to his team.
Since they are in first place in their division, the Green Knights have a first-round bye. Coach Coghlin understands that this presents extra time for his team to clean up some aspects of their play before the Harris Cup Playoffs begin on Friday, Feb. 26, “Our power play hasn’t been recording the numbers we’d like to see. But recently we’ve been converting at over 40 percent,”Coghlin said.
It will be important for the Green Knights power play to continue playing at a high level going into the playoffs. Coach Coghlin also remarked that “special teams will always be a factor, and goaltending will be the ‘X Factor’ for us.”
During an important stretch of three conference games, St. Norbert was without its starting goaltender, Tony Kujava ’17, after he suffered a concussion in the game against Adrian College on Jan. 22. T.J. Black ’19, was St. Norbert’s starting goalie while Kujava was injured. He stepped right into his new role, allowing only two goals and recording a shutout against Concordia University.
On Feb. 5, Coghlin tallied his 500th career win. He achieved this feat in 680 games, making him the third fastest coach in NCAA history to 500 wins. That night, Coghlin also clinched his 20th consecutive season with at least 18 wins. Regarding St. Norbert’s constant success since he took over the program in 1993, Coghlin said, “it’s just the tradition of who we are right now. It’s been a long time in the making, it’s not something that has just happened in three or four years.”
During his tenure as head coach, St. Norbert has won 12 NCHA Playoff titles. But Coghlin said, “We aren’t satisfied by winning our conference. Our job is to go deep into the NCAA tournament.” Under Coghlin, St. Norbert has definitely done its job, appearing in the NCAA Division III Tournament 15 times, advancing to the Frozen Four nine times, and winning four national championships. “When I came here in 1993, we were basically a club team. That’s when the process of building this program started. Since then, St. Norbert hockey has been well known all across the country.”
It will be interesting to see if St. Norbert can advance to the NCAA National Championship and win its third championship in three years, adding a fifth championship to coach Coghlin’s legacy and raising another banner up to the rafters at the Cornerstone Community Center.