The Gustie Women’s hockey team is back in action and ready to defend their Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) championship title.
Their previous season had an intense finish, tying with Hamline for the regular season championship and falling to them in a battle for the playoff title. However, the team received an at-large bid into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament putting them up against UW-Eau Claire in a four-hour triple overtime game, breaking a historic Division III record for longest game.
In the MIAC Preseason Coaches’ poll, the Gusties are tied at the top with St. Thomas with 72 points, while defending MIAC champion Hamline came in third with 70 points.
“The good thing about the poll is that it’s the coaches opinions, so the peers in the league think that you have a chance to have some success,” said Head Coach Mike Carroll. “All the poll is though is a projection, and our team knows that we can’t just show up because we certainly have a lot of work to do. What happened last year is a nice notch for the girls who are back.”
After losing their top three point scorers, the Gusties will be heavily relying on their core returning skaters as they reign in their 11 first-year players.
“Besides the fact that we lost a lot of scoring, we lost two of our captains in Diana Draayer and Erica Power and a really emotional leader in Kaitlyn Klein; we lost a lot of glue but our new leaders are doing a great job so we’re really encouraged,” Carroll said.
Three of the biggest returners are Juniors Amelia Vosen and Kristen Cash and Senior Allie Stanger have all been named captains as well. Vosen finished 11 goals and had 6 assists, and Cash closed with 5 goals and 14 assists last season. Stanger was also a huge asset scoring three game-winning goals last season.
“I’m really excited for this season to see what our team can do. We have a really young team with a lot of chemistry right off the bat. It’s more about getting that experience with the first-years and all throughout the team.” Vosen said. “It’s been a great honor to be voted in as a captain this season. I feel incredibly blessed to be around these girls, and there’s nobody else I’d rather help lead.”
Senior returner and two-time All-American, Amanda DiNella will be a solid piece to the team between the pipes.
Last season, DiNella recorded six shutouts and made 51 saves in her last performance with a save percentage of .962 earning her MIAC Women’s Hockey Athlete of the Week honors this past week.
“Any team that has good goaltending has a little bit of confidence that they don’t have to play picture perfect and they can make mistakes,” said Carroll. “Having self-confidence in your own game is one thing but knowing that the back end is pretty consistent can really help you play free and easy.”
The team had a victorious home opener, defeating UW-Superior Yellowjackets 2-1.
First-year Jamie Byrne scored the first goal of the season.
Gustie veteran Stanger netted the second, which proved to be the game-winning goal.
“I think it helped a lot to have the scrimmages we had for sure. Hockey is a game of mistakes and working through it and we weren’t playing as well for a while today but our veteran leadership kicked in and had a calming effect to help us work through those things. It was a really good learning experience for our younger players to go through that and come out with a win.”
Following the win at home against UW-Superior, the team traveled to Eau Claire to battle against the Blugolds in the NCAA tournament rematch.
The Gusties kicked off the scoring when First-year Kristina Press made her first collegiate goal and second point of the season, assisted from Stanger.
The game became very back and forth as Eau Claire scored halfway through the second period, Lanie Fischer answered back by scoring unassisted, her first goal of the season.
Despite their one goal lead, the Blugolds scored at 7:41 in the third, ending the game with a 2-2 tie.
The Gusties will begin the conference season at St. Olaf tonight at 7:30.