Gustavus senior forward Molly Doyle deflected a hard shot by teammate Kelsey Johnson past St. Thomas goaltender Lauren Bradel with 2:46 remaining in the third period to give the Gusties a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Tommies in the MIAC Playoff Championship game on Wednesday night at Gustavus. The Gusties, who improve to 25-2-0 on the season, receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as a result of claiming the playoff championship. The tournament field and pairings will be announced on Monday, March 10 at 11:00 am (CDT).
The game lived up to its billing as the crowd of nearly 700 at Don Roberts Ice Rink were treated to a lively contest with lots of action. Both goaltenders were challenged multiple times with breakaway opportunities and each time they came up with the save. Lauren Bradel of St. Thomas faced a larger number of shots and recorded 31 saves, while Breanna Scavo of Gustavus tallied 12 saves.
The first period was a very efficient one as neither team was whistled for a penalty, nor was either team able to score a goal. Both teams had several good scoring opportunities but each time the goaltenders were able stop the puck.
The second period was played at a frantic pace with both teams making numerous rushes up the ice and forcing the action. There were seven penalties whistled in the period including three on St. Thomas and four on Gustavus. The score remained tied at 0-0 through two periods of play.
The lone goal of the game came on a power play opportunity for Gustavus late in the third period. Gustavus forward Mari Gunderson broke into the St. Thomas zone with just over three minutes remaining in the game and the Tommies were whistled for a holding penalty with 2:52 left in regulation play. Just six seconds into the power play, Gustavus’ Kelsey Johnson received the puck off the face-off and drove a shot hard from the left side of the rink to the lower right corner of the net, where Molly Doyle re-directed the puck past an outstretched Bradel into the lower corner of the net for the game-winning goal at the 17:14 mark. The Gusties finished one-for-six on the power play, while the Tommies were shut out in their six power play opportunities.
Gustavus held a 32-12 advantage in shots in the game. The Gusties outshot the Tommies 9-3 in the first period, 11-6 in the second period, and 12-3 in the third period.
The Gusties extended their current win streak to eight games and six of those eight wins are shutouts. Gustavus has recorded 12 shutouts this season which is the second highest total in Division III behind Plattsburgh State with 13.
This is the fifth consecutive year that the Gusties have claimed a one goal victory over the Tommies in the MIAC Playoff Championship game. Gustavus has won six MIAC Playoff Titles since the format began nine years ago. The Gusties improved their all-time MIAC Playoff record to 18-4-2 including a mark of 15-1-1 at home.