Senior goalie Zach Sikich stopped 40 of 42 shots vs. St. Norbert’s to send the Tommies into the NCAA Division III semifinals Friday against No. 5-ranked Trinity (Conn.).
Tommies head to NCAA Division III Final Four
By Gene McGivern, Sports Information Director
For the second time in six seasons, St. Thomas has advanced to the NCAA Division III Final Four in men’s hockey. The Tommies are just the fifth MIAC men’s team to reach the national semifinals in the 22-year history of the event.
No. 6-ranked St. Thomas (19-5-5) plays No. 5-ranked Trinity (Conn.) (21-3-2) in an NCAA Division III semifinal playoff game Friday in Middlebury, Vt. Game time is 2:30 p.m. Minnesota time. With a victory, the Tommies will play in Saturday’s 6 p.m. Minnesota time championship against either host Middlebury (21-4-3) or New England College (18-11).
The game will be Webcast. A link to listen online will be set up by Friday at www.stthomas.edu/tommies. We’ll also provide in-game updates on the Tommie Ticker, (651) 962-5940.
For ticket information, contact JoAnn Andregg, (651) 962-5902, by the end of the day Wednesday.
The Tommies are in the D-III men’s hockey Final Four for the just second time in school history. (They placed second in 2000 in Superior, Wis., with a 7-1 semifinal win over SUNY-Plattsburgh and a 2-1 loss in the finals to Norwich.)
Senior Zach Sikich stopped 40 of 42 shots and the Tommies broke to a 3-0 lead then held on to post a 3-2 win over top-ranked St. Norbert (24-3-3) before a sellout crowd of 2,100 in NCAA quarterfinal play Saturday night in Green Bay, Wis. The Tommies snapped St. Norbert’s 26-game unbeaten streak this season (23-0-3) and 50-game home unbeaten streak (48-0-2) dating back three seasons. UST won its seventh game in a row and moved to 4-0 in the postseason, including three road wins in an eight-day stretch against teams ranked No. 2, No. 3 and No. 1 in the nation.
St. Norbert, the 2004 Division III runner-up, outshot the Tommies 42-24 but fell behind 3-0 in the first 28:00. Junior Brandon Wilcox scored at 14:54 of the first period, as freshman Matt Kaiser and junior Dan Krmpotich assisted. Freshman Ryan Hoehn scored on a breakaway 4:31 into the second period (assisted by freshman Garrett Gruenke) for a 2-0 lead. UST led 3-0 at the 7:17 mark on Kevin Rollwagen’s goal (assisted by sophomore Ryan Van Bockel and senior Anthony Blumer). The Green Knights’ All-American Jason Deitsch scored two goals to tighten the game. He connected on a power-play goal with 3:02 left in the second period, then scored 33 seconds into the third period to cut the lead to 3-2. But Sikich came up big in the final 19:00 with 19 saves to help the Tommies survive.
UST lost to Trinity two years ago 4-3 in a mid-season tournament at Norwich (Vt.) on a goal by Joseph Ori with 3:00 to play. That Tommie team finished 16-9-2, while that Trinity team finished 19-6-2 and lost 5-4 in the NCAA quarterfinals to Norwich. Both goalies in that game were sophomores and are now senior starters – UST’s Zach Sikich and Trinity’s Douglas Kisielius. UST’s Anthony Blumer scored two assists in the game.
Trinity hails from Hartford, Conn., and is 10-1-1 in its last 12 games. The Bantams won 4-0 over SUNY-Geneseo Saturday on the road to reach the Final Four for the first time. They are 10-0-2 on the road or neutral ice this season. Senior Joseph Ori (123 career points in 104 games) leads in scoring with 40 points (11g-29a). Junior Cameron Finch has a team-best 23 goals. Freshman Dan Maturi had a team-best five power-play goals. Senior Douglas Kisielius is 16-3-2 in goal with a .919 save percentage and a 2.50 GAA. Last season he was 16-8-1 with a 2.56 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
St. Thomas is making its 12th trip to the NCAA playoffs and is 8-13-3 all-time. It’s the ninth appearance in Coach Terry Skrypek’s 18-year era and fifth in the past seven seasons.
The Tommies started on the road in a playoff game for the third time in four years. In 2002, they lost 2-1 at UW-Superior. In 2004, they lost 3-2 in overtime at UW-River Falls. In Wednesday’s 4-1 victory at St. John’s, UST won its first NCAA playoff road game since 1992. UST is now 3-10-3 all-time in NCAA road games.
St. Thomas has scored the first goal in its last 13 games, including all four meetings with St. John’s.
St. Thomas was the first current Division III institution to win 900 career hockey games. The Tommies are now 936-547-64 in the 82-year history of the program. The next most men’s hockey wins among the 68 other Division III hockey programs is 909 by Middlebury (80 seasons).
UST coach Terry Skrypek has never had a losing season in his 43-year hockey career as a player (Cretin High, St. Mary’s) and head coach (Hill-Murray High, UST). Skrypek coached his 500th game at St. Thomas in November. His Tommie teams are 339-148-36 in 18 seasons, including a 221-49-18 record in MIAC regular-season games. UST secured its 17th top-two conference finish in 18 seasons under Skrypek. He was 325-42-2 in 17 seasons at Hill-Murray with 12 berths in the Minnesota state tournament, four trips to the title game and a championship in 1983.