Women’s hockey clinches fifth seed, to play Duluth in tourney

The Minnesota State women’s hockey team returned home this weekend to face off against in-state rival Bemidji State. The Mavericks and Beavers came into the matchup within one point of each other in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings, and the outcome of the series would decide who is seeded fifth for the end-of-season Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament. 

Mavericks’ head coach John Harrington expressed the importance of winning the series this weekend saying, “It’s a big series for us and a chance at fifth place in the league. To have a matchup with the fourth place team in the league instead of the possibility of getting a matchup with Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Ohio State, is going to be really important for us.”

Injuries plagued MSU coming into the weekend, which was most notably highlighted by the absence of starting goaltender and junior Calla Frank. With Frank’s absence, Penn State transfer Chantal Burke got the start this weekend and came up huge for the Mavericks. 

Junior forward Kelsey King explained in a postgame presser on Friday that Burke was not expecting to play. Burke ended up getting the start on Friday and collected her first career shutout as a Maverick. 

“I was so happy for her along with the rest of the team,” said King on Burke’s performance. “She said ‘Hey, I got your guys’ backs. I love this team.’” 

Senior center Brittyn Fleming got the Mavericks on the board first, scoring a one-on-one fastbreak through the Bemidji State goaltender’s fivehole with 7:07 remaining. 

Nearly half of the second period remained scoreless until sophomore forward Madison Mashuga crashed the net on a breakaway. Mashuga was unable to get a shot off and was tripped in the process, allotting a penalty shot. 

Mashuga made a nice move near the restricted area, but the puck was blocked by the Bemidji State netminder’s stick to keep the game 1-0. 

Shortly after, a three-on-one fast break ensued for the Mavericks’ first line. Junior forward Kennedy Bobyck carried the puck into the offensive zone and eventually had the puck knocked off her stick to a trailing King. King ripped a shot to the left side of the net, sailing it under the goaltender’s glove side for a 2-0 lead. 

The third period ended scoreless although each team had quality chances. With the win, Burke collected her first shutout of the weekend stopping 28 shots, and the Mavericks clinched the fifth seed in the WCHA playoffs. 

“It was a good game for us from start to end,” said Harrington.

The Mavericks then moved onto senior day on Saturday where they celebrated the last season for Fleming, Jessica Kondas, and Taylor Wemple as Mavericks. 

Nerves were apparent in the beginning of game two, with the Mavericks ending the first period down in shots 3-10. The first period ended scoreless with MSU coming out hot in the second. 

Freshman forward Alexis Paddington got MSU on the board first, collecting a rebound in front of the net and scoring it past the right side of the BSU goaltender. Over ten minutes later the Mavericks scored again, with freshman Shelbi Guttormson collecting her first collegiate goal. 

Another goal from Bobyck extended the MSU lead to three before concluding the second period.

Nearly the entire third period went by uninterrupted until a 10 minute game misconduct penalty from Bemidji’s Makenna Deering sent MSU on the power play at the 15:02 mark for the remainder of the contest. Just 32 seconds into the major penalty Fleming scored her first goal of the night, with freshman Sydney Shearen scoring her first collegiate goal on the power play as well to go up 5-0. 

The Mavericks finished the game with a 5-0 win despite the slow start. 

“It started from our third line. They brought the intensity, which got everything else going,” said Fleming after the game when discussing how the team got hot in the second period. With three points on Saturday Fleming tied the school record in points at 109. 

Fleming also set the school record for points in a season with her 40th career point.

Burke earned WCHA Goaltender of the Week honors for her 47-save, two shutout weekend in her first two starts as a Maverick. 

MSU now moves onto the end-of-season WCHA tournament where they will face fourth-seeded Minnesota Duluth in a best of three series. 

The Mavericks finished out the season with a 14-17-1 overall record while going 10-17-1 in conference play. The Mavs will ride a two-game win streak into the final tournament of the season with the hopes of making the NCAA tournament beginning Mar. 11.

Header Photo: Senior forward Brittyn Fleming (19) tied the all time points mark in the women’s hockey program at 109 with three points in Saturday’s game against Bemidji. Fleming also set the single-season points record at 40. (Maddie Behrens/The Reporter)

Write to Kole Buelow at kole.buelow@mnsu.edu.

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