LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — It took 95 years and a stretch of five straight weekends on the road to finally get the Colby College hockey program to a Frozen Four appearance. It took less than 12 minutes to usher them out.

Colby surrendered three goals right out of the gate to the nation’s top-ranked team, two in the first three minutes of the contest, and No. 1 St. Norbert College made the early advantage stick en route to a 4-3 win over the Mules in an NCAA Division III national semifinal at Herb Brooks Arena on Friday night.

St. Norbert senior captain Tanner Froese scored a pair of goals, including a shorthanded goal late in the second period that stood up as the game-winner. The Green Knights (25-4-1) will play No. 6 Salve Regina in the national championship game Saturday night.

St. Norbert, winner of 11 straight games now, will attempt to win its fifth national title in the last 12 seasons and first since 2014. The program has tied Middlebury College with nine national championship game appearances, the most in Division III history.

Colby’s nine-game unbeaten run (7-0-2) was snapped with the loss in the program’s first Frozen Four appearance. The defeat was the first in six potential elimination games for the Mules dating back to the New England Small College Athletic Conference quarterfinals.

“There’s a majority of us that know the routine coming here, and there’s a majority of us that have unfinished business,” said Froese, who played in the Frozen Four in this building two years ago. “A lot of us use that as motivation and try to pass that on to the younger guys. We try to lead by example out there.”

Things couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start for Colby (17-11-2), as the Green Knights used their size and speed right out of the gate to build a 3-0 lead just past the midway point of the opening period.

Roman Uchyn, Dominick Sacco and Froese all scored as St. Norbert raced out to the lead — Uchyn opening things up only 88 seconds into the contest, and Sacco getting credit when an awkward bounce ate up Colby goalie Sean Lawrence only 53 seconds after Uchyn’s tally.

At the 11:33 mark, Froese found a loose puck in traffic and used little more than poke check to sneak a third St. Norbert goal home.

“That’s how goals are scored this time of year. You’ve got to get to the paint, you’ve got to get to the hard areas,” St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin said. “You keep your stick on the ice because you never know which one’s going to be a big one.”

Lawrence didn’t look comfortable early on, despite being the only player on the ice dressed in a blue sweater with prior experience on this particular ice sheet. He grew into the game as it wore on, finishing with 43 saves — 20 of them in the first period alone — for his 10th straight outing with 30 or more saves.

“Anytime you get in a 3-0 hole, you’ve got to reassess,” Colby senior Cam MacDonald said. “We (believed) we could do it. We knew we had to just keep playing and they would go in. But it’s always tough to come back when you dig yourself a hole like that.”

Credit to the Mules, they found a way to get themselves back into contention — even when it appeared bleak at best and well out of reach at worst.

A wild final five minutes of the period took both teams on a roller coaster ride to the intermission.

First, J.P. Schuhlen put Colby on the board at 15:04 after cashing in one of St. Norbert goalie T.J. Black’s very few rebounds of the night. Less than a minute later, Lawrence made a dazzling post-to-post stop on Timmy Nicksic, and the Mules responded by getting Cam MacDonald’s pinpoint wrister on the power play to make it 3-2 with under three minutes left in the period.

It was MacDonald’s team-leading 16th goal of the season.

Almost immediately granted another power play, the Mules had a splendid opportunity to reset the game in the final 1:22 of the period. Instead, Nick O’Connor tried a cross-ice pass from just inside the blue line that was blocked down, sending Froese off on a shorthanded breakaway that resulted in a 4-2 St. Norbert lead at 19:25.

Instead of a tie game through two periods — and the shockwaves of emotions it would have sent through both dressing rooms, invigoration for Colby and dangerous doubt for St. Norbert — the Green Knights had a backbreaking goal.

“If (Colby would have tied the game with that power play), they would have had a lot of momentum going into the third period, and that’s not the situation we wanted to be in,” Froese said. “I had the chance to make a big play, and luckily it went in for me.”

Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald appealed to the inner child in his players during the second intermission.

“These guys have a tremendous amount of passion and fun playing the game,” he said. “We just said, ‘It’s Friday night and we’ve got the ice rented until 9:30. Let’s just keep on playing.'”

Justin Grillo scored late in the third period to pull Colby within 4-3, but the Mules could not get the equalizer.

Mule senior Michael Rudolf had a final chance from right on top of the crease with 44 seconds left — and Lawrence pulled for an extra attacker — but he could not stuff Thomas Stahlhuth’s rebound under a recovering Black, despite getting a pretty good whack at it.

“To get behind 3-0 to a team like that, I was very proud of how we played for the next 40 minutes,” Blaise MacDonald said. “We got a puck dancing around the crease to (try and) tie the game, but the turning point was that shorthanded goal at the end of the second.”

“They’re a good team, first and foremost. They’ve been on a pretty good run here, and it’s easy to see why,” Coghlin said of Colby. “The keep coming and they keep coming and they keep coming, and we had to earn all 60 minutes tonight.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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