The Gustavus women’s hockey team scored twice in the third period to slip past the University of Wisconsin-River Falls by the score of 2-0 in a NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal game on Saturday afternoon at Don Roberts Ice Rink in St. Peter, Minn. With the win, Gustavus earns the right to the host the NCAA Championship Finals next Friday and Saturday. The Gusties will face defending national champion Amherst College in one semifinal, while Elmira College (New York) will play Norwich University (Vermont) in the other semifinal contest. Allie Schwab scored what turned out to be the gamewinner at 2:28 of the third period giving the the Gusties a 1-0 lead. One minute later, Nara Higano extended the lead to 2-0 with a goal a the 3:29 mark. Danielle Justice registered 16 saves and picked up the win in goal for Gustavus.
Gustavus gathered momentum early in the first period registering 11 shots on Falcon goaltender Cassi Campbell before UW-River Falls put a shot on Gustie goaltender Danielle Justice. Several of the Gusties early chances challenged Campbell, but she came up with the stop each time. Gustavus got two power play opportunities in the first period, but could not convert with the player advantage. The Gusties put good pressure on the Falcons placing 14 shots on the goal during the power plays, but Campbell stonewalled Gustavus each time and allowed UW-River Falls to go into the locker room after the first 20 minutes of play tied at 0-0. The Gusties outshot the Falcons 18-1 in the first period.
The pace slowed just a bit in the second period, but both team created a couple of strong scoring opportunities. Campbell turned away two point-blank opportunities for the Gusties and Justice made one big save, while the other good Falcon chance slid just wide of an open net. Gustavus put 13 shots on goal in the second 20 minutes compared to four for UW-River Falls.
The Gusties quickly became the aggressor in the third period and the result was a goal by Allie Schwab at the 2:28 mark. First year forward Meagan Wanecke fired a shot towards the front of the crease from the right circle that was deflected by Schwab past Campbell giving Gustavus the 1-0 lead. Just one minute later, the Gusties gave themselves some breathing room when sophomore forward Nara Higano released a quick shot from the right circle that surprised a shielded Campbell and sailed into the back of the net. The Gusties continued to skate aggressively the rest of the period and limited the Falcons chances for a comeback. As a result, Gustavus punched its fourth ticket to the NCAA Championship Finals, but the first since 2006.
Gustavus will be the first team from the West Region to host the Division III Women’s Ice Hockey Championship Finals since the NCAA started national tournament play in 2002.
Gustavus enters the Championship Finals with the longest win streak in Division III at 13.
Since starting the season at 2-3-2, the Gusties have compiled a record of 20-1-0 and are currently 22-4-2.
Gustavus is now 19-1-2 this season when scoring the first goal of the game.