Mendota Heights, Minn. – A two-goal deficit following the opening period proved to be too much to overcome for the Gustavus women’s hockey team in a 2-0 loss to St. Thomas in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Playoff Championship Game on Saturday afternoon at the St. Thomas Ice Arena. With this afternoon’s result, the Gusties drop to 17-8-2 overall, while the Tommies improve to 19-5-3.
The loss ends Gustavus’s streak of 10 consecutive MIAC Playoff titles, as the Tommies earn their first playoff crown since the 2002-03 season. With the win, St. Thomas captures the MIAC’s automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA Division III Women’s Hockey Tournament. The Gusties will now await the announcement of the tournament field, which will be released early next week, in anticipation of receiving an at-large bid.
After Gustavus won the opening face off, the two teams wasted little time getting into the flow of the game. The contest was competitive from the start, with the two squads trading blows.
It was St. Thomas who struck first when Megan Juricko cracked the seal on the scoreboard at the 2:08 mark. Juricko used assists from Tara Baago and Jenny Saxon to score her seventh goal of the season and put the Tommies in front 1-0 in the early going. The score came on just the second shot of the contest for St. Thomas.
Nearly 10 minutes later, Paige Baldwin added to the St. Thomas lead with her 10th goal of the season. Kelsey Barnier received the puck in the corner and centered in front to a wide-open Baldwin. The junior did not let the opportunity go to waste, as she tipped the puck into the upper right corner of the net to put her team on top 2-0.
The Tommies held the slight advantage in shots (10-9) following the opening period. The even play would continue throughout the afternoon, as the two teams went on to skate to a scoreless tie through the final two frames.
Gustavus came back to hold a 14-13 shot advantage in a highly competitive second period. Again the two teams went back-and-forth trading scoring opportunities in the second 20 minutes. Both the intensity and physicality of play picked up in the second frame as the Gusties went to the second intermission facing a 2-0 deficit.
The Gustie women struggled to find scoring opportunities early in the third period, but created a chance at the 8:36 mark when Melissa Doyle (Sr., White Bear Lake, Minn.) found herself with a look at the net. Doyle wriggled free in the slot and fired a shot on goal, but the bounce would not go her way, as it deflected off the pipe in the upper left corner.
From there, the Gusties would not be able to put one home, as the Tommie defense held strong in the final minutes, keeping the shutout in tact and capturing the playoff crown.
For the game, the shot total read even at 29 apiece. Each team took its turn with a one-shot advantage in the first and second period, while each squad recorded six shots in the final frame. Although play was physical throughout the contest, neither team was called for a penalty.
Lindsey Hibbard (So., Princeton, Minn.) was tagged with the loss in a 27-save effort and moves to 8-5-1 on the year. Alise Riedel earned the win for St. Thomas with 29 saves in the shutout win and improves to 17-2-3.
Following the conclusion of the game, Carolyn Draayer (So., Deephaven, Minn.) received the MIAC Elite 22 Award. The award recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honoring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the conference championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. Modeled after the NCAA Elite 89 Award, the MIAC Elite 22 Award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest grade point average (GPA) in each sport who meet similarly high, sport-specific athletic requirements.