St. Peter, Minn. – The Gustavus women’s hockey team concluded the year of 2013 with a 3-0 loss to tenth-ranked UW-River Falls on Friday night at Don Roberts Ice Rink. The two teams played to a scoreless tie through the first two periods, but a shorthanded goal just 13 seconds into the third period for the Falcons proved to be the back-breaker in the loss. The Gusties drop to 7-2-2 on the year, while the Falcons improve to 7-3-2.
“You have to hand it to River Falls. They deserved to win the game tonight,” mentioned Head Coach Mike Carroll following the loss. “They were better than us. They played consistent, hard-nosed hockey and took advantage of some of our miscues. That is what you have to do in a tight hockey game. It was a good series, and hopefully we can take some things from it.”
The first two periods went back and forth with neither team able to gain an advantage. Each squad created its fair share of the scoring chances, highlighted by a two-on-one breakaway chance for the Gusties, but Allison Eder-Zdechlik (So., Stillwater, Minn.) could not put away a pass from Amanda Cartony (Sr., Stillwater, Minn.), as her shot hit the pipe and the score remained scoreless.
Gustavus held a narrow shot advantage each of the first two frames, outshooting UW-River Falls 9-8 in the first and 10-9 in the second for a two-period count of 19-17. However, both goaltenders were up to the task. Gustie goaltender Lindsey Hibbard (So., Princeton, Minn.) made all 17 saves through the opening 40 minutes, while Falcon goalie Ashley Kuechle registered 19.
The Gusties opened the third period with 33 seconds remaining on a power play, but rather than find themselves with an advantage, it was the Falcons who scored a shorthanded goal just 13 seconds into the final frame to take a 1-0 lead. Katie Batters chased down a loose puck behind the net and wrapped it around the net, just barely squeezing it in underneath the pad of Hibbard.
Less than 12 minutes later, UW-River Falls added to its lead when Chloe Kinsel raced up the right side and fired from the right dot past the glove of Hibbard to put the Falcons on top 2-0. The goal would prove to be all they would need for the win.
The Gusties made one last effort to get back in the game in the final minutes, pulling goaltender Lindsey Hibbard from her net with just over a minute to play. The Falcons took advantage of the empty net, as Katie Batters scored her second goal of the contest to seal the 3-0 win.
“I was a little disappointed in our performance tonight,” Carroll admitted. “I thought our first period was excellent. Our second period wasn’t so good, and the third period was just tough after they got that early goal. We came out on the power play and they were opportunistic to get that first goal. I don’t think it took the wind out of our sails, but it gave them a spark and it was definitely the difference.”
For the second straight game, the Falcons outshot the Gusties. After displaying an advantage of 32-25 in Wednesday night’s contest, UW-River Falls held a narrow margin of 26-25 on Friday night.
In net, Lindsey Hibbard suffered the loss for Gustavus after allowing three goals and making 23 saves. Her counterpart, Ashley Kuechle, earned the shut out in a 25-save effort.
Friday marked the first time the Gusties had been shut out since Dec. 3, 2010 when they feel to St. Thomas in St. Paul. The 93-game streak came to an end with the 3-0 loss to the Falcons.
Gustavus will now have nearly a month before its next game, which will be against UW-Stevens Point in Stevens Point, Wis., on Friday, Jan. 10. That contest is set for a 7:00 p.m., opening face off.
“All teams are in the same situation. We need to focus and do well on our finals, go home and see the family, relieve some stress, and just get away. Over the years, I have liked how our team comes together after going home for a break,” acknowledged of the importance of both academics and time off.
He went on the finish with a chuckle, “I know we probably will not be as conditioned as we would like, so we will have to work hard to get that back. I think some of the things for the young players start to sink in over the break. We throw a lot at them at the beginning of the year. It’s a process for younger players to know where they are supposed to be and what system we are running. We know our veterans are going to lead the way and show the girls how to come to come back for a break and still be ready for hockey when we get back. The key is we have to keep working hard to get better because it’s a long season.”