STEVENS POINT, Wis. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey put forth a valiant effort, but ultimately fell 3-2 in overtime to No. 1-ranked UW-Stevens Point in the 2019 NCAA Division III National Championship game at the K.B. Willett Arena.
Norwich (23-5-3) had its 19-game unbeaten streak snapped by the only team in NCAA Division III hockey to complete an undefeated season as UW-Stevens Point ran the table with a 29-0-2 record to win its sixth NCAA Division III National Championship and second in the last four seasons.
Sophomore forward Coby Downs (Montclair, Calif.) scored twice in the third period to rally the Cadets from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game and force overtime, but Pointer sophomore defenseman Steven Quagliata scored the game-winning goal at the 15:13 mark of overtime to squash the Cadets' hopes of winning their second national championship in the last three seasons.
Junior goalie Tom Aubrun (Chamonix, France) was marvelous in goal for the Cadets, turning aside 42 shots to keep Norwich in the game and give NU a chance to win.
However, it wasn't quite enough as Quagliata took advantage of a forced turnover in the neutral zone and received a pass on the right wing from Stephen Beauvais before sniping a wrist shot over the glove and into the top right corner of the net for the game-winning goal.
After a scoreless opening 40 minutes, the floodgates opened in the third period with UW-Stevens Point striking first when Jordan Fader tipped a shot from the blue line by Danny Kiraly that found its way between the arm and body of Aubrun and gave the Pointers a 1-0 lead at the 3:31 mark.
Just 1:03 later, Colin Raver scored his team-leading 14th goal of the season with a pretty individual effort, splitting the Norwich defense and moving in all alone on a partial breakaway. He deked to his right and pulled the puck back over to his forehand before slipping it behind Aubrun off assists from Tanner Karty and Zach Zech.
From there it was the Downs' show as the sophomore forward put the Cadets' on his back with two goals. The first came at the 7:01 mark to cut the deficit to 2-1. Downs received a pass from Gabriel Chicoine (St. Dominique, Quebec) and skated in from the left side. His initial shot was blocked but he found the rebound and buried the puck past Connor Ryckman for his eighth goal of the season.
Downs knotted the game up at 2-2 with a pretty breakaway goal off a picture perfect pass from Noah Williams (Cortland, N.Y.) in the neutral zone. Downs made a great play to fend off a UW-Stevens Point defender and corral the puck before skating into the offensive zone alone. Downs faked out Ryckman and slipped it behind him on the left for his second of the game and ninth of the season.
Both teams had great chances in overtime before Quagliata finally settled it. Norwich's best chance came in the opening five minutes when Taeron Lewis (Winnipeg, Manitoba) found himself alone in the low slot and the puck coming towards his stick, but right as he wound up to shoot the puck bounced up and over his stick before he could get a shot away.
UW-Stevens Point outshot Norwich 45-28 for the game. Aubrun and senior captain David Robertson (Boissevain, Manitoba) were named to the All-Tournament team for the Cadets. Aubrun finished the season with a 20-4-3 record. Norwich skaters blocked a remarkable 72 shots on the weekend to help aid Aubrun in staving off the high-octane Geneseo and UW-Stevens Point offenses.
Norwich lost for just the second time in a national championship game. The Cadets were 4-1 coming into Saturday night's game in finals with the only other loss coming ironically 3-2 in overtime to UW-Superior at Middlebury's Kenyon Arena in 2002.
The game marked end of the collegiate careers for two Norwich seniors in Robertson and Cam Beecy (Stowe, Vt.). The two helped lead Norwich to two NEHC Tournament titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances, one national runner up and the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship.