Getting back to the grind: Tommies women return to WCHA action after win over Harvard

St. Thomas’ Abby Promersberger chases the puck down the ice during a game against St. Cloud State Nov. 17 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

By Ryan Stieg 

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — The St. Thomas women’s hockey team had been going through some struggles recently, but a trip to Washington D.C. appears to have changed the Tommies’ fortunes.  

After getting shut out twice by St. Cloud State, UST competed in the D1 in D.C. event at the Washington Capitals practice facility last weekend and emerged with a win and a loss. In the first game, the Tommies fell behind now-No. 9 Cornell 2-0 and tried to rally before eventually falling 4-1.  

“I thought most of the game we played pretty well,” UST head coach Joel Johnson said Monday. “We just weren’t prepared for defending in transition and they were really intentional and very good at kind of jumping and going off a turnover. I thought that was the difference in the game. We had some chances later in the game to kind of make it interesting, but we couldn’t figure out a way to score. We got one late, which is great, but I thought they certainly deserved to win and they kind of dominated us through some parts and then we kind of punched back a little bit, but not enough.” 

St. Thomas’ Brieja Parent prepares for a faceoff during a game against Harvard Nov. 25 at the D1 in D.C. event in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy St. Thomas Athletics)

The Tommies rebounded though the following night, building up a three-goal lead and holding on late to get a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Harvard to close out the event and head home on a good note.  

“That was one of our better games,” Johnson said. “I thought the game we played against Mankato in the Hall of Fame game was another one. But that Harvard game, I liked how we started even though we were down 1, we were just solid defensively. The one thing late in the game, we took two penalties that I’m not sure we should be taking if we expect to win. That was what gave them some hope, so I think that’s something our team needs to learn from.” 

The star of the weekend for UST was freshman Maddie Brown, who scored three goals during the weekend with one of them being a spark that helped fuel the Tommies’ scoring surge against the Crimson.  

“She’s got a real adept scoring touch and really makes a lot of crafty plays,” Johnson said. “The more she gets used to the speed of the college game, the more you’re going to see her show up on the scoresheet. I can’t say it strongly enough. That goal that she scored against Harvard was huge. Just to say, ‘We’re not out of this’ and ‘Let’s get back after it.’ I thought that was certainly the biggest goal of the weekend and one of the biggest goals of the season so far because it kind of put us back at ease and then to come back and get another one and be a really dominating factor in the game, I was really excited for Maddie.” 

St. Thomas’ Abby Promersberger watches the play in front of her during a game against Harvard at the D1 in D.C. event in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy St. Thomas Athletics)

Looking back at the experience, Johnson said that he’s glad the Tommies got to participate and that it was nice to play some nonconference opponents before resuming the frequent grind of playing in the WCHA.  

“It was fun,” he said. “Cornell was, I think, ranked eighth in the country, but it was just nice to play somebody that wasn’t in our league. And to then play Harvard, who is not ranked, but is having an up-and-coming season as they rebuild. It was just fun to play people who we don’t always see. And that doesn’t take anything away from our league games because when we come back here, we’ve got (Minnesota State) Mankato and then Bemidji (State) to finish. I’m looking forward to those games as well. I don’t know if we’re sixth or something in strength of schedule, I can’t remember what we are, but we play in such a great league that it’s a great litmus test. We know that if we can find success and competitive balance in our league, we’re going to be ready for whatever comes at us.” 

St. Thomas’ Cara Sajevic passes the puck to a teammate during a game against St. Cloud State Nov. 17 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Ryan Stieg)

Speaking of Mankato, the Tommies will play a home and home series this weekend against the Mavericks with Friday’s game taking place at Minnesota State and Saturday’s game in Mendota Heights. MSU is coming off of blowout victories over Robert Morris and Boston University at the Smashville Classic, so the Mavs have a little momentum coming into the series.  

“I think we’re two very similar teams and they’re coming off a big tournament win down in Nashville,” Johnson said. “When I look back at the game we played, the score is a little bit less important and more irrelevant to me because I look back at the competition and the way the game was played. So, I’m excited. I think it’ll be a great series this weekend.” 

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