St. Peter, Minn. – For the 10th consecutive year, the Gustavus women’s hockey team has won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Playoff Championship following a 4-1 victory over Concordia on Saturday afternoon at Don Roberts Ice Rink. The Cobbers struck first with a goal in the opening period, but the Gusties were quick to answer and went on to score four unanswered goals to capture the title by the final score of 4-1. With the win, Gustavus moves to 26-0-1 on the season and receives the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will begin next weekend.
Both teams came out with physical play from the opening face-off that set the tone for what would be a battle to the end in the 2013 edition of the MIAC Playoff title game. Saturday’s contest was a rematch of last year’s championship, providing added incentive for both teams to begin the game with heightened emotion.
Concordia drew first blood when Madison Gendreau put the puck in the back of the net on a rebound attempt. Gustavus goalie Lindsey Hibbard (Fy., Princeton, Minn.) stopped the first two Concordia shots, but could not come up with a third as Gendreau took a hack at it and found the back of the net to put the Cobbers on top 1-0 at the 16:44 mark of the first period.
The Gusties were quick to respond, however. Carolyn Draayer (So., Deephaven, Minn.) took a chip off the glass from Maddie Bergh (Jr., Eden Prairie, Minn.) and skated the puck across the blue line before firing shot on net from the right dot. Concordia netminder Madison Denny was able to make the initial save, but could not hang on to it as the puck trickled its way across the goal line to tie the game at 1-1.
Draayer’s goal seemed to swing the momentum in favor of the Gusties. After an even first period that featured a slight 13-9 advantage in shots on goal for Gustavus, the Gustie women went on to control the game through the final two periods, outshooting the Cobbers 16-3 in the second period and 19-5 in the third for an advantage of 48-17 for the game.
Gustavus tacked on two more goals in the second period. Allison Eder-Zdechlik (Fy., Stillwater, Minn.) took advantage of a power play opportunity when she skated the puck from neutral ice across the blue line and into the high slot. Eder-Zdechlik rifled a shot and beat Denny stick-side for her 13th goal of the season, which gave Gustavus its first lead of the contest with 11:38 remaining in the second period.
“I knew I had to get the puck to the net and just keep shooting,” described Eder-Zdechlik. “I think the goal gave us some momentum going forward. It got us excited and got us playing even harder for the rest of the game.”
At the 16:41 mark of the second frame, Lindsey Hjelm (Sr., North Oaks, Minn.) added a much-needed insurance goal to push the Gustie lead to 3-1. Meagan Wanecke (Sr., Delafield, Wis.) brought the puck behind the net before leaving it off for Hjelm in the slot. Hjelm had an open net in front of her and didn’t let it go to waste, burying it in the top left portion of the goal.
Eder-Zdechlik provided the final exclamation point late in the third period with an empty-net goal. The first-year caught her balance and fired a wrister from the right point that was uncontested and put the finishing touches on the 4-1 victory for the Gusties.
Lindsey Hibbard went the distance to get the win in net for Gustavus. Hibbard made 16 saves, eight of which came in the first period, while allowing just one goal to pick up her 15th win of the season. Her counterpart, Madison Denny, tallied 44 saves and allowed three goals in the loss.
With the win, Gustavus wins its 10th consecutive MIAC Playoff title and the 11th in program history. Those 11 titles have all come under the direction of head coach Mike Carroll, and are the most by any institution in the 14-year history of the MIAC Women’s Hockey Playoffs. The Gusties also improve their unbeaten-streak to 27 games heading into the NCAA Tournament next weekend. The opponent, destination, and time of Gustavus’ first round game will be announced Monday following the selection show.
“I’m excited,” Eder-Zdechlik put simply. “We are going to have to come out and work hard this week in practice. It’s just exciting to have the opportunity to play in an NCAA Tournament.”