Rochester, New York – The Gustavus women’s hockey team suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to Norwich University in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship on Friday night in Rochester, New York. The NCAA Division III Player of the Year Julie Fortier showed up at the most opportune time, scoring the game-winning goal on a tip-in at the 4:07 mark of overtime to earn the Cadets their third-straight trip to the NCAA Championship game.
Gustavus moves on to play Plattsburgh State tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 p.m. CST in the third place game, while Norwich will take on RIT in the NCAA Championship at 6:00 CST p.m.
“I’m really proud of our players tonight. They played their hearts out and we had a shot to win and that’s all you can ask for at this time of year,” said Head Coach Mike Carroll after the game. “Our team works hard and we didn’t give up. Tonight, unfortunately the puck didn’t bounce our way.”
This is the second-straight season that Gustavus has fallen to Norwich by one goal in the NCAA Championship Semifinal game. The similarities between that game and this season’s contest end there.
It took a little while for Gustavus to finds its legs in the opening ticks of the first period. Fortunately, senior goaltender Danielle Justice (Alexandria, Minn.) was up to the challenge. Justice made several key saves within the first two minutes to set the tone and jump-start the Gusties.
After stages where Gustavus and Norwich traded possession and control of the offensive zone, a strong shift from the Norwich fourth line led to the opening goal of the game. At the 6:34 mark, Meghan Papagno knocked home a back door pass on from Haley Gibson, giving Justice no time to slide over for a chance at a save.
Gustavus stuck to its game plan after Papagno’s opening goal and kept getting the puck deep in the zone. At the 14:42 mark of the period, the strategy paid off. Sophomore forward Melissa Doyle (White Bear Lake, Minn.) took the puck off the right corner boards, dangled around a defender in the circle, and fired a wrister into the top corner of the net, beating Norwich netminder Kelly Fisk glove side. Stay tuned because Doyle wasn’t done there.
With the team on its heal five minutes into the second period, Gustavus wen to its on-fire second line and they went to work down low. After working the puck off the boards in right corner, Jenna Christensen (Jr., Albert Lea, Minn.) got the puck to Doyle inside the right circle. Doyle, once again, laced a wrister into the corner of the net to give the Gusties a 2-1 advantage at the 6:46 point.
“Our line has been gelling and working hard the last few months. Somebody had to step up. Tonight, it was us. Good things happen when you work hard,” said Doyle who scored her fourth and fifth goals of the season tonight.
Despite the momentum swing, Norwich answered right back five minutes later. At the 11:34 mark, Jillayne DeBus found herself free in the slot after taking a pass from Renee Lortie. DeBus snapped the puck past Justice to tie the game at 2-2.
Norwich kept the pressure on in the opening stages of the third period, converting on an odd-player rush at 5:37 to take a 3-2 lead. A tape-to-tape pass from Julie Fortier to Kaycie Anderson between the dots led to Anderson’s 23rd goal of the season.
It took Gustavus less than four minutes to respond. With a Gustie power play running low on time, junior blueliner Lindsey Hjelm (North Oaks, Minn.) took matters into her own hands. Hjelm skated the puck deep into the Cadet zone, pulled up inside the left circle and ripped a low-liner towards the goal. The shot passed under the leg pad of Fisk and into the back of the net, tying the game at 3-3 with 10:27 left to play.
“I’m usually ready to get it to Allie, Mollie, Amanda or whoever else is open, but on that play I saw a lane in the middle of the ice and told myself that I’ve got to go for this,” said Hjelm describing her goal-scoring play. “I think I was mid-fall as the puck went in, but to tie it up at that point lifted a lot of spirits.”
Neither team could tally the game-winning goal in regulation and a fresh 20 minutes was put on the clock after a re-surface and the third intermission.
Typical to the type of evenly played game it was; the shots on goal were square at 31 a piece after 60 minutes.
Special teams was key for coach Carroll’s squad tonight, as Gustavus finished 1-for-5 on the power play while holding Norwich scoreless on two power play chances.
“I was proud of the way we killed off both our penalties, one being my own, but I thought we could have capitalized a little bit better on our power play chances,” said Hjelm on the play of Gustavus’ special teams against Norwich. “They play an “I” configuration on their penalty kill and it forces you to be extremely weary of where you are passing the puck. We told our players that we needed to have two on the puck at all times.”
Despite being on the power play due to a too many players on the ice penalty assessed to Norwich, neither team recorded a shot in the opening four minutes of the extra session. In fact, it would take just one shot to bring the game to a close.
Norwich’s Sarianne Lynn sent the puck towards the net where, along its path, Julie Fortier tipped it past Justice for the game-winner, her seventh of the season.
Danielle Justice suffers her first loss of the season in a 28-save effort, dropping to 18-1-2 on the year. Her counterpart Kelly Fisk improved to 20-1-0 with the victory, recording a total of 28 saves in the win.
Justice gave credit to the Norwich attackers following the game. “Norwich put a lot of pressure on the net. They had some really good shooters and did a nice job get the puck through from the high corners. Tonight they were able to capitalize, and that was the difference.
Hjelm feels the team will come out ready to cap the season on a high note tomorrow. Gustavus enters Saturday afternoon’s third place game with a record of 24-3-2 overall.
“These seniors mean everything to us and they are six of the strongest girls I know. They really carried the team this year and the best we can do for them tomorrow is to send them out a winner,” said Hjelm. ” Obviously it wasn’t the outcome we wanted tonight, but to get out there and put our best foot forward like we did says a lot about the character of this team. ”