D-III Championship Field Coming Sunday
March 8, 2009
The Gustavus women's hockey team scored once in the second period and twice in the third period on its way to a 3-0 win over St. Thomas in the MIAC Playoff Championship game which was played at Don Roberts Ice Rink on the Gustavus campus. Melissa Mackley scored two goals including an empty net goal with :30 seconds left in the game, while Danielle Justice turned in a stellar performance in the nets making 23 saves and recording her sixth shutout of the season. The Gusties improve to 22-1-4 on the season.
With the win, Gustavus earns an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament which begins with first round games the weekend of March 13-14. The NCAA Tournament field will be announced Monday, March 9 on a live selection show that will be video streamed through NCAA.com. The exact time of the announcement has not yet been released.
The game was played at a level befitting a conference playoff championship game with both teams pushing the puck up and down the ice. The Gusties controlled play for the better part of the game, but St. Thomas counterattacked effectively which game them several legitimate scoring each period. Both goaltenders, Justice for Gustavus and Bradel for St. Thomas, played extremely well and registered numerous big saves.
The Gusties got the puck past the Tommies Bradel midway through the first period, however the goal was waved off due to a high stick and as a result, the score was tied 0-0 at the end of the first period. Gustavus out-shot St. Thomas 12-1 in the period.
The back-and-forth action continued through the second period with both teams putting together several legitimate scoring opportunities, however each time Bradel and Justice came up with the save. With the second period winding down, Gustavus got the important first goal when junior forward Melissa Mackley took a sharp pass across the crease from Allie Schwab and one-timed a shot past a sprawling Bradel into the net at the 15:32 mark. The Gusties took their 1-0 lead into the locker room after two periods. Shots were even at 5-5 in the period.
St. Thomas came out firing early in the third period and out-shot the Gusties 8-1 in the first seven minutes of play. Fortunately for Gustavus, goaltender Danielle Justice was at the top of her game and turned the Tommies away at every opportunity. The Gusties slowly took control of the game again and scored the all-important second goal on an outstanding individual effort by senior forward Mari Gunderson who raced up the left side of the ice and flipped a backhand up in the air and past Bradel as she was being taken out of the play by a Tommie defender at the 13:50 mark. Alyssa Gaulrapp was credited with an assist. With the game winding down, St. Thomas pulled its goaltender with 1:20 left to play and Melissa Mackley put the game on ice for Gustavus with an empty net goal at the 19:28 mark.
The Gusties posted an impressive seventh straight shutout (a string of 437 consecutive minutes). The team has not allowed a goal since midway through the third period against St. Kate's in St. Peter on Feb. 7. It is the longest scoreless streak in the 12-year history of the Gustavus women's hockey program.
Gustavus will enter the NCAA Tournament on 26-game unbeaten streak dating back to the first game of the 2008-09 season when it suffered a 2-1 loss in overtime to Adrian College.
The Gusties and Tommies were playing in the MIAC Playoff Championship game for the seventh consecutive year and the Gusties claimed their sixth consecutive league playoff title. Gustavus, which has advanced to the championship game of the MIAC Playoffs in each of the ten years the conference has sponsored a tournament, has now won the playoff title seven times. The Gusties have compiled a record of 18-4-2 in MIAC Playoff games.