Superior, Wis. – Heartbreak does not begin to describe the scene for the Gustavus women’s hockey team at Wessman Arena following a 4-3 overtime loss to Elmira in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Women’s Hockey Tournament on Friday night. The Gusties held a 3-2 lead deep into the third period, but could not hold on as the Soaring Eagles came back to score two unanswered goals in the third period and overtime to capture the 4-3 victory and advance to the championship game tomorrow night. Gustavus suffers its first loss of the season and drops to 27-1-1, while Elmira improves to 23-5-1.
An evenly contested first period gave way to an Elmira goal with just 1:47 left in the opening frame. Ashton Hogan forced a Gustavus turnover at the right circle, brought the puck in front of the net, and made a move to beat Gustavus goaltender Lindsey Hibbard (Fy., Princeton, Minn.) through the five-hole to take the early 1-0 lead.
The Gusties came out firing in the second period, creating a number of opportunities within the opening minutes. The pinnacle of those opportunities came just prior to the two minute mark when Emily Reibert (Fy., Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) found herself alone on the doorstep with an open net in front of her. The pass intended for Reibert came through the crease where Elmira goaltender Lauren Sullivan was able to get just enough of her stick on the puck to send it barely over the top of Reibert’s stick and divert the Gustavus chance.
The Gusties kept the pressure on throughout the remainder of the second period, scoring two goals. The Gustie women got their first when senior captain Jenna Christensen (Sr., Albert Lea, Minn.) picked off a pass at her own blue line, giving herself a breakaway opportunity. Christensen’s shot deflected off the pad of Sullivan and trickled into the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1 just 2:44 into the second.
Gustavus’s second goal came on a blue-collar play in front of the goal. Melissa Doyle (Jr., White Bear Lake, Minn.) brought the puck from the corner along the goal line towards the net and fired a shot from point blank range that was saved by Sullivan. Kelsey Kennedy (Sr., Eagan, Minn.) came up with the rebound and let one fly, but her shot was also saved. Finally, Lindsey Hjelm (Sr., North Oaks, Minn.) scooped up the rebound and saw an open net in front of her. Hjelm didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, burying the puck in the back of the net to give Gustavus a 2-1 lead.
However, Elmira had the answer at the 14:01 mark. A breakdown on the blue line for the Gusties resulted in a turnover in their own zone, which in turn led to a one-on-one opportunity for Ashley Ryan on Hibbard. Ryan deked Hibbard into the butterfly to create the space she needed to put the puck in the back of the net. The goal tied the game at two apiece, which is where it would stay headed to the second intermission.
Gustavus cranked up the heat again in the third period. The Gusties peppered Sullivan with more quality looks at the net, including a chance from the slot for Courtney Boucher (So., Hastings, Minn.). With Sullivan extended in the butterfly on the left post, the puck deflected out to Boucher in the slot with a clean look at an open net. An outstanding defensive play from an Elmira defender deflected Boucher’s shot up into the netting and the go-ahead goal was averted.
Just one minute after Boucher’s chance, the Gusties got the go ahead goal they were looking for from Amanda Cartony (Jr., Stillwater, Minn.). Cartony’s former high school teammate Allison Eder-Zdechlik (Fy., Stillwater, Minn.) started the play by taking the puck into the corner, drawing three defenders, and then leaving it off for Hjelm behind the net. Hjelm then lost her footing, but was able to make a centering pass from her knees to a wide open Cartony who one-timed a slap shot into the top right corner of the goal to give Gustavus the go ahead score with 8:20 to play.
With 3:23 left in the game, Elmira was called for a holding penalty, giving Gustavus the two-minute skater advantage. However, the tides turned on the Gusties when a turnover in the neutral zone led to an advantage for the Eagles. Ashley Ryan came up with the puck and chipped it off the glass to herself to create a two-on-one advantage. Ryan centered the pass in front to Tanis Lamoureux who put it away to tie the game 3-3 with just 2:51 remaining.
Neither team was able to score for the remainder of regulation, which sent the game into overtime. Gustavus again came out and controlled the opening minutes of the overtime period. However, it was another turnover in the neutral zone that led to the game-winning goal for the Eagles. Cassidy Delainey was on the receiving end of the turnover that created a two player breakaway for Elmira. Delainey gave the puck ahead to her teammate Sam Curk, who had only Hibbard to beat. Curk deked once and netted the puck to give the Eagles the victory with only :38 seconds left in the first overtime.
“It was a heck of a hockey game,” stated Head Coach Mike Carroll. “You have to hand it to Elmira for staying the course and finding a way to win. I’m proud of our kids – I thought they played their hearts out tonight. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but we have a great group here and I’m proud of the way they competed and battled to the very end.”
For the game, Gustavus outshot Elmira 41-26, including the advantage in all four periods. Between the pipes for the Gusties, Lindsey Hibbard recorded 22 saves while giving up four goals in the loss. Her counterpart, Lauren Sullivan notched 38 saves and gave up three goals in the win.
The Gusties will be back in action tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in the third place game at Wessman Arena. Gustavus will take on Plattsburgh State, who lost 4-1 to Middlebury in the first semifinal earlier on Friday afternoon.
“It was amazing to have the support from so many fans tonight,” Hjelm acknowledged of the large Gustavus following. She finished, “It’s an honor to be here and certainly nobody wants their run to end like that in a game like that, but the beauty is that we have another game tomorrow. Like I reminded my teammates, this should sting and it does, but it’s not done. There is an opportunity tomorrow and we’re going to come out and play hard.”