Sophomore forward Megan Wanecke scored twice including the game-winner at the 12:18 mark of the third period to spark the Gustavus women’s hockey team to a hard-fought 2-1 win over St. Ben’s in St. Peter on Saturday afternoon. The Gusties improve to 10-2-1 overall and 7-1-0 in conference play.
Gustavus out-shot St. Ben’s 54-22 in the contest, but the Blazer defense anchored by the outstanding play of goaltender Abbie Helminen limited the Gustie scoring opportunities and kept the Blazers in the game. Helminen registered 52 saves, but was the tough-luck loser in the nets for St. Ben’s. Danielle Justice made 21 saves for the Gusties and improved her record to 8-2-1 on the season.
Head Coach Mike Carroll credited St. Ben’s with a great effort and noted that his squad played well when it had to in the third period. “We played well down the stretch,” stated Carroll. “The energy level was there but things just weren’t clicking, we weren’t making the good tape to tape passes like we know we can, but nevertheless it was a good win.”
St. Ben’s opened the scoring with an unassisted goal by Kerri Graske just 90 seconds into the contest. Two minutes later, Gustavus tied the score at 1-1 when Wanecke scored on a rebound after a flurry of shots on Helminen. The time of the goal was 3:13 and assists were credited to Alyssa Gaulrapp and Tam Meuwissen.
The Gusties continued to pepper Helminen for the rest of the first period and all through the second, but the stingy Blazer goaltender shut Gustavus out and the score was tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes of play. The Gusties had a 5-on-3 advantage early for a minute early in second period, but despite five quality shots on goal could not get the puck past Helminen.
Midway through the third period, Wanecke ended up with the puck near the left circle after Alyssa Gaulrapp had won a face. Wanecke took a quick wrist shot from a sharp angle on the left side of the net that rocketed past Helminen’s glove hand and into the top of the net for the game-winner.
Carroll thought Wanecke’s strong play of late is a result of her hard work in practice. He stated, “Meagan struggled before the holidays, but since the break she has been working really hard in practice to improve her game. It was good to see here have some success because she has worked very hard recently. Her second goal was just a matter of good skating and a quick release. It gave us a big lift.”
With the win, the Gusties maintained sole possession of first place in the MIAC with a mark of 7-1-0. Gustavus will face St. Kate’s in a key league series next weekend. Friday’s game will be at St. Kate’s at 7 pm and then Saturday’s finale will be at Gustavus at 2 pm.