LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Colby College surrendered three early goals to the nation’s top-ranked team, then fell short in a comeback and lost 4-3 to St. Norbert in an NCAA Division III men’s hockey semifinal Friday night at Herb Brooks Arena.

Tanner Froese scored twice, including a shorthanded goal late in the second period that stood up as the winner for St. Norbert of De Pere, Wisconsin.

St. Norbert (25-4-1) will play sixth-ranked Salve Regina (22-5-2) in the national championship game Saturday night. Salve Regina defeated Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 3-0.

“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.”

The Green Knights are attempting to win their fifth national title in the last 12 seasons and first since 2014.

Colby (17-11-2) couldn’t have had a worse start. The Green Knights used size and speed to build a 3-0 lead through the first 11:33.

Roman Uchyn, Dominick Sacco and Froese scored as St. Norbert raced to the lead, and Colby goalie Sean Lawrence appeared a shadow of his remarkable postseason self.

Colby’s dreadful first period was capped in the final minute when Thomas Stahlhuth fanned on a rebound chance on the doorstep.

It was one of the few rebounds that St. Norbert goalie T.J. Black allowed in the first period. Black finished with 39 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.”

Even through the first 10 minutes of the second period – with Lawrence (44 saves) looking more comfortable and Colby finding itself playing with the puck more – the Green Knights had things in cruise control.

With a three-goal lead, they were content to avoid taking risks. Instead they opted for simple, safe plays that forced Colby to continually try and go 200 feet on offense.

Then came a wild final five minutes of the second period.

Although Black had surrendered few rebounds through the first 35 minutes, Kienan Scott’s shot for Colby from the left circle got away from Black and landed in the path of J.P. Schuhlen. Schuhlen popped home his sixth goal of the season to cut Colby’s deficit to 3-1 with 4:56 remaining in the period.

Less than a minute later, Colby defenseman Michael Decker turned the puck over at his own blue line, then lost his footing as he tried turning to recover, sending Sacco and Timmy Nicksic in as part of a three-on-one rush.

Sacco fed Nicksic to his left, but Lawrence turned in a dazzling post-to-post stick save to thwart the bid.

Nicksic then was penalized at 16:50 for interference to put Colby and all its momentum on the power play.

Cam MacDonald took advantage, pulling the Mules to within 3-2 just 1:06 later as he flipped a wrister short side over Black’s shoulder.

As if that weren’t enough, Uchyn was whistled for interference on Schuhlen, and 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 short-handed breakaway that resulted in a 4-2 St. Norbert lead at 19:25.

“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 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 couldn’t tie the game.

Michael Rudolf of Colby had a final chance from right on top of the crease with 44 seconds remaining and Lawrence pulled for an extra attacker, but he couldn’t stuff Stahlhuth’s rebound under the recovering Black.

“To get behind 3-0 to a team like that, I was very proud of how we played for the next 40 minutes,” MacDonald said. “We got a puck dancing around the crease to (try and) tie the game, but the turning point was that short-handed 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,” St. Norbert Coach Tim Coghlin said of Colby. “The keep coming and they keep coming and they keep coming, and we had to earn all 60 minutes tonight.”