Brady Boie – Staff Writer
After securing the MIAC championship less than a week ago, the Gustavus Golden Gusties continued their postseason run as a participant in the NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament. Their path to the Frozen Four and National Championship game began with a home match against the Eau Claire Blugolds. Much like the MIAC Championship game, the atmosphere at Don Roberts Ice Rink was electric.
“As a team, we were really happy that we had such a great atmosphere. We had a lot of fans who were very proud of our team,” Head Coach Mike Carroll said.
The Gusties packed the stands with over 1400 fans and made their presence known often throughout the game. Unfortunately, the Gusties on the ice were unable to take advantage of this energy in the first period. Eau Claire’s physical playing style limited their offensive opportunities, and the score remained knotted at zero at the sound of the first-period buzzer.
The score did not remain the same for much longer, however. Sophomore Sophia Coltvet won a face-off and slid the puck to Junior teammate Emily Olson; Olson slammed the puck into the top right corner of the net, giving the Gusties a 1-0 lead three minutes into the second period. The Gusties held strong for the remainder of the period and were twenty minutes away from advancing further in the NCAA tournament.
Junior goaltender Katie McCoy made a number of clutch saves in the final period to preserve a shutout. The Blugolds crumbled and surrendered two goals in the final two minutes of the game. The 3-0 Gustie victory set up a road date with the UW River Falls Falcons, a team that had gotten the best of the Gusties in two previous matches.
“They are a great hockey team. We played them twice in December. One game score-wise was really close and one was not so close… our twenty-three kids will be ready to go,” Carroll said.
And despite Carroll’s promise, it appeared that this was in fact not the case in the early goings of the game. The Falcons netted their first goal only a minute into regulation. However, the Gusties were determined to not let this game have the same outcome as their previous matchups.
“We just kept talking about how we needed to be all in. We needed to keep moving our feet and focus on the little things. We knew the game would eventually just take care of itself,” Senior forward Madigan Goldsworthy said.
Goldsworthy’s words rang true for the Gusties. Senior Jordyn Peterson tied the game up at the 12:09 mark in the first period. Goldsworthy closed the period with a goal of her own, and the Gusties took their first lead of the game.
However, the momentum swung back in the favor of the Falcons in the early minutes of the second period. The Falcons scored two goals in the first half of the period and gained a one-goal advantage. The Gusties responded with a run of their own, as Junior Clara Billings evened the score off a power play and continued to pepper the Falcons with shots.
Later that period, the Gusties dialed up Goldsworthy’s number again; she connected with the back of the net for the second time of the game. They took a commanding 4-3 lead heading into intermission. With one period to go, the Gusties focused on applying offensive pressure.
“We had to make sure that we kept the pressure on them. They are a fast team so we had to make sure to not let them get past us and just keep them in their D-Zone,” Junior Hailey Holland said.
And apply pressure they did. The Gusties continued to attack the Falcon defense throughout the period and were rewarded with an insurance goal courtesy of a power play. Holland netted the final goal of the game with about five minutes to go, which secured a 5-3 win and a trip to the Frozen Four.
“I’m very proud of our team…we settled down and got a couple of timely goals towards the end of the period and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Carroll said
The Gusties face Plattsburg on Friday March 18 at 2:00 PM Central Time. If they are victorious, they will face the winner of Middlebury v. Elmira with the once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring a national championship back to St. Peter.