Women’s hockey clinches playoff after victory over Minnesota-Duluth

The St. Cloud State women’s hockey team (13-15-4, 9-14-4 WCHA) finished their first game of the last series of their season in fashion, as they defeated the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (12-20-1, 9-17-1 WCHA) 3-2 in convincing fashion. The win clinched the fifth place spot, with 34 total points in WCHA play. The Bulldogs are now out of contention, as they sit with 28 points, with the final game versus the Huskies on Saturday.

The Huskies jumped early, cruising to a 3-0 lead to start the game. With a comfortable lead, the defense was able to tighten up, and help senior goaltender Katie Fitzgerald en route to her 31 saves. The Bulldogs continually pressured, and managed to score two goals. Fitzgerald made a great save on Bulldogs defenseman Sydney Morin to stop a sure goal.

The Bulldogs continued their pressure all night, registering 33 shots on net while the Huskies only had 18. The Huskies’ goals came from senior Molly Illikainen, senior Lexi Slattery, and junior Lauren Hespenheide, who capitalized on their limited opportunities.

Late in the second period, the Bulldogs didn’t count themselves out as junior Ashleigh Brykaliuk fired a shot past Fitzgerald to cut the lead to two. Brykaliuk left the game early with an injury, and returned to action.

The Bulldogs would strike again after senior Michela Cava fired a shot that deflected off Fitzgerald to cut the lead to one. The Bulldogs would continue to pressure, but couldn’t find the net as Fitzgerald held strong.

With the win, the Huskies will travel to North Dakota for their first playoff series next weekend against the Fighting Hawks. The playoffs are a three game series, with the tiebreaker game on Sunday if necessary.

During the game, several Huskies were honored for their academic achievement this season. They received the WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award, an award that recognizes academic excellence for WCHA athletes. The recipients of the award for the Huskies were Jenna Redford, Vanessa Spataro, Christa Moody, Caroline Markstrom, Emma Turbyville, and Hanna Brodt.

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