The Gustavus women’s hockey team earned its eighth consecutive MIAC Playoff Championship with a 3-0 win over the Bethel Royals on Saturday afternoon in St. Peter. Junior Allie Schwab scored two goals to lead the Gusties. With the win, Gustavus earned the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will now wait until Monday, March 7 to find out their next opponent.
In the scoreless first period, Bethel goaltender Jess Newstrom turned away 11 shots, while Danielle Justice came up with two saves for the Gusties. The Gusties’ best chance to score came at the 11:07 mark, when Meagan Wanecke stick-handled around a Bethel defender before taking wrist shot that went off the chest of Newstrom. Another key opportunity came with less than a minute left to play, as Gustavus took advantage of Anna Carlson’s tripping penalty at the 19:17 mark by putting together a string of three quick shots, none of which would find the back of the net.
In the second period, both teams played physical hockey, as they combined to draw five penalties in the frame. The period saw three of the penalties come within a span of 2:21. Gina DeNucci was whistled for tripping at 13:11 and was joined in the box by Kirstin Peterson at 15:02 before the Royals’ Carlson was sent off for slashing at 15:32. When the teams returned to full strength Gustavus struck quickly and was finally able to notch a goal at the 17:53 mark. On the scoring play, Sara Yungner worked a pass to Amanda Cartony, who took a slapshot from the top of the circle that was redirected into the net by Allie Schwab to give the Gusties a 1-0 edge. “We were starting to get frustrated with not scoring on good opportunities,” Coach Mike Carroll said. “But the nice tip-in goal relieved some pressure.” The Gusties outshot the Royals 16-2 in the period.
In the third period, the Gusties took a 2-0 lead at the 10:45 mark, when Jenna Christensen carried the puck into the zone and snapped a shot from the top of the circle that went over Newstrom’s shoulder and into the net. The goal was Christensen’s fourth of the season. Allie Schwab would put Gustavus up 3-0 with nine seconds left, as she slid the puck into an empty net for her second goal of the game.
Justice earned her seventh shutout of the season as Gustavus outshot Bethel 34-8. “We did what we had to do,” Carroll said. “They tried to skate with us and they did for awhile, but the girls adjusted well to the situation. It was a good team effort.”
With the win, Gustavus secured its eighth consecutive MIAC Playoff Championship. The Gusties will now turn their focus to the NCAA tournament. “Every season is a journey and takes a course of its own,” Carroll said. “We hit a snag there and had some tough times around Thanksgiving, but our team is battle-tested. We’ve got good leadership and the girls really enjoy playing for each other.”
The bracket for the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship will be announced on Monday, March 7 at 9 a.m. on the NCAA.com web site.