St. Peter, Minn. - In what was a battle of familiar foes, the Gustavus Adolphus women’s hockey team came away with a 2-1 win over the University of Wisconsin, River Falls in the first round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Hockey Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Don Roberts Ice Rink. With the win, Gustavus improves to 27-0-1 on the season and advances to the NCAA Championship finals set to take place in Superior, Wis. March 15th and 16th. UW-River Falls concludes its season with a record of 21-7-2.
“It was a tough game, and a different type of game,” mentioned head coach Mike Carroll. “Both teams had good quality scoring chances, but there weren’t a ton of shots for either team. It was one of those nail-biter games from start to finish that will hopefully make us a better hockey team. Our team has gone through some ups and downs this year which has made us a tougher team mentally. I am very proud of the ladies and their effort tonight.”
Gustavus got on the scoreboard first with a goal from Melissa Doyle (Jr., White Bear Lake, Minn.) at the 5:15 mark of the first period after Lindsey Hjelm (Sr., North Oaks, Minn.) fired a shot from the left point. Hjelm’s shot was saved by UW-River Falls goaltender Gillian McDonald, but the rebound came out to the right side where a waiting Doyle found herself with an open net in front of her. The junior put the puck away to give the Gusties a 1-0 lead.
UW-River Falls had the answer late in the opening period with a goal from the stick of Judy Daleiden at the 17:41 mark. The senior fired a shot from the high slot that found its way along the ice and into the back of the net. Daleiden’s goal capped the first period scoring and the two teams went to the locker room at the first intermission in a 1-1 tie.
“We got down a little bit in the first period after we gave up the goal,” stated Doyle. “But the key to today was staying positive. Our team has shown this year that hard work, positivity, and grittiness lead to finding a way to win. Luckily we were able to do that today.”
The Gusties scored what proved to be the game-winning goal at the 11:01 mark of the second period. Following a Gustavus win on the face-off, the puck found its way to Maddie Bergh (Jr., Eden Prairie, Minn.) who fired a slap shot on net from the right point. Bergh’s shot was deflected into the back of the goal by Leah Johnson (So., Chanhassen, Minn.), who put it away for her fourth goal of the season. Johnson’s goal put Gustavus in front 2-1, which is where the score would stay for the remainder of the afternoon as the Gusties held on for the victory.
“I have to hand it to my teammates on the goal,” acknowledged a humble Johnson. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I got a great shot from Maddie Bergh at the point, and got a little lucky that the deflection went in. I’m just so proud of our team and the way we played today. I think we picked it up as the game went on and once we got the go-ahead goal we played well defensively the rest of the game and held the lead.”
In an evenly played game throughout, Gustavus held the slight advantage in shots on goal with a margin of 24-22. Both goaltenders put forth a solid effort on the afternoon. Gustavus’ Lindsey Hibbard (Fy., Princeton, Minn.) played her best game between the pipes this season, and was rewarded with the win after stopping 21 shots and allowing just one goal. Hibbard made numerous saves on great scoring chances from point-blank range for the Falcons and was a key to the Gustavus win. Her counterpart, Gillian McDonald, made 22 saves and allowed two goals in the losing effort.
“Wow, Lindsey came up with some big saves for us tonight,” raved Johnson of Hibbard’s play. “She did an awesome job. It seemed like every time they got a good look, Lindsey came up with a save.”
Gustavus will next travel to Superior, Wis. for a semifinal matchup against Elmira on Friday, March 15th.