ADRIAN, Mich. - This weekend features a matchup of two top ten teams nationally as No. 2 St. Norbert visits No. 10 Adrian in a battle of first-place teams in the NCHA. Both squads are coming off surprising losses last weekend. St. Norbert dropped a 2-1 decision at home against MSOE on Saturday while Adrian fell 3-0 at Finlandia on Friday. This will be the first trip for St. Norbert to Arrington Ice Arena. The previous five meetings between the teams have either been in De Pere, Wisconsin or on neutral ice.
The Bulldogs have defeated the Green Knights just once in the series coming back on Feb. 1, 2014 in a 4-1 win. Brandon Hoogenboom scored first for St. Norbert and then Adrian scored the game's final four goals. Brett Pinkerton, Ryan Lowe, Josh Cousineau and Duston Hebebrand each tallied a goal for the Bulldogs. Scott Shackell made 35 saves in the victory as SNC held a 36-17 advantage in shots on net. The matchup was No. 1 Adrian vs. No. 2 St. Norbert at the time.
The Green Knights and Bulldogs have met three times in the NCAA Division III Tournament with the latest installment on Mar. 15, 2014. No. 1 St. Norbert defeated No. 5 Adrian by the final of 7-2 in front of 1,458 spectators at Cornerstone Center. Joe Perry scored the first and last goal for SNC and also had an assist. Erik Cooper had a goal and three assists for the Green Knights. Kevin Balas and Justin Basso each scored for the Bulldogs, but SNC was ahead 5-0 before Balas' goal in the third period. Shackell made 33 saves while counterpart David Jacobson had 12 saves.
"I think that this series has been on our minds for quite some time," said head coach Adam Krug. "I think last weekend we probably looked ahead and it cost us. In order to win the NCHA you have to go through St. Norbert. They have established a program that others wish they could have. We are excited to have them in our building this time around. I feel like our guys will feed off the fans and hope that Arrington Ice Arena is packed with loud support."
Adrian (13-3-3) and St. Norbert (14-2-2) have identical 10-1-1 marks (21 points) in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association standings as January comes to a close. The Bulldogs began the season 8-0, but since then have a record of 5-4-3. The team has been blanked three times during the stretch and an improved offensive mindset will be needed as the next six games are against some of the best the NCHA has to offer.
"We have had struggles getting the puck in the net, but I think we have generated enough offensive chances over the last few games," said Krug. "This series in particular goals aren't going to be pretty so the team that is willing to sacrifice their bodies in front of the net will likely come out on top. Our focus has been the best I've seen all year and hopefully that translates onto the ice beginning Friday. The message from here on out is to do the little things right and fight for what you want. We have 10 seniors on this team that want to perform well against the defending national champions and then see what happens."
Players to Watch
Adrian: Freshman Kyle Brothers ranks fifth in NCAA Division III in points per game (1.56) and leads the team with 14 goals – he has notched five game winners this season and has two hat tricks coming against Northland (Oct. 31) and Bethel (Jan. 9)
Senior Josh Ranalli has scored 12 goals this season which currently ranks tied for 19th nationally – he is second on the team with 22 points and has attempted the most shots on net (62) – Ranalli played in his 100th game last Saturday against Finlandia and tied a career-high with four points: he scored the game winner and finished with two goals and two assists with seven shots on net: it was his third multi-goal game of the season – Ranalli currently has 106 career points becoming the 11th player in school history to reach the 100 mark: he ranks fifth all-time in power play goals (21), sixth in total goals (58) and seventh in shots on goal (310)
Senior Duston Hebebrand is looking to break out of a scoring slump having not scored in the last six games since a three-goal game against Marian (Wis.) on Dec. 5 – he has a total of 18 points this season which ranks fifth on the team – Hebebrand has played in 94 career games and has totaled 82 points
Senior Scott Shackell enters this weekend ranked 10th nationally in goals-against average (1.71) and save percentage (.935) – he has posted a record of 9-1-3 which places him ninth nationally in winning percentage – Shackell has made 30 or more saves in three games this season with a season-high of 35 saves coming against Concordia (Wis.) on Nov. 15 – Shackell has a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage during his career over a span of 65 games: he ranks first all-time at Adrian in save percentage and second in saves (1,524) and save percentage – Shackell is posting the best GAA and save percentage of his career this season.
St. Norbert: Junior Michael Hill leads the team with 16 goals and ranks tied for 15th nationally in points per game (1.33): Hill also ranks third nationally in goals per game (0.89) – he is in a tie for the team lead with four power plays goals and has one of the team's three short-handed tallies this season
Senior Mason Baptista is tied for the team lead with 24 points this season and has 18 assists which is tied for fourth in the nation – Baptista was named All-NCHA last season and has accumulated 94 points in 107 career games for the Green Knights
Senior Cullen Bradshaw currently ranks second on the team with 23 points totaling eight goals and 15 assists – he has two power play goals and two game winners – Bradshaw has the most experience on the team with 110 career games under his belt having notched 122 points (44 goals, 78 assists)
Senior David Jacobson was named First Team West All-American last year for St. Norbert – this season he ranks third nationally in goals-against average (1.43) and 16th in save percentage (.931): he has posted a 12-1-1 record and three shutouts – Jacobson has 20 career shutouts becoming second in Division III history to reach 20 – he has 75 career wins which ranks third all-time in Division III history behind Kyle Jones (St. Norbert, 87) and Brad Fogal (Adrian, 93) with a 1.46 goals-against average and .934 save percentage
Inside the Numbers (NCAA Division III ranks)
Adrian: 5th in scoring offense (4.42), 19th in scoring defense (2.42), 6th in scoring margin (+2.0), 18th in penalty minutes (14.1), 17th in power play (24.8, 25/101), 27th in penalty kill (83.6, 61/73)
St. Norbert: 1st in scoring offense (5.0), 2nd in scoring defense (1.39), 1st in scoring margin (+3.61), 41st in penalty minutes (11.4), tied 5th in power play (29.3, 24/82), 1st in penalty kill (91.8, 67/73)