Dose of Excitement: After caging Huskies, Tommies women head to Bemidji

St. Thomas’ Mary Zavoral scores an empty netter to clinch a victory over now-No. 10 St. Cloud State during a game Jan. 20 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Kylie Macziewski)

By Ryan Stieg

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Every college hockey team goes through highs and lows over the course of its season and unfortunately for the St. Thomas women’s team, it’s been mostly the latter this year.  

However, last weekend, the Tommies (8-17-0, 2-16 WCHA) achieved another high and that was taking down a ranked opponent at home as UST defeated now-No. 10 St. Cloud State Saturday to force a series split. The victory was also the Tommies’ first regulation win over a ranked team and snapped a four-game losing streak.  

“It was a great way to finish the last weekend series against St. Cloud and obviously to beat a quality opponent like that is something that doesn’t happen every weekend for us,” UST head coach Joel Johnson said Monday. “So, it was certainly a fun locker room, and I was really proud of how we did it, both games of the weekend to be honest. Defense first and then some timely goal scoring. So, it was exciting.” 

St. Thomas’ Abby Promersberger (11) celebrates with her teammates after her game-tying goal during a game against St. Cloud State Jan. 20 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Kylie Macziewski)

When asked if this was the biggest victory for the program during its short time in Division I, Johnson said it was near the top. However, as far as the idea of the win being a springboard for the remainder of the regular season, Johnson wasn’t sure about that.  

“I think it’s hard to argue that it’s not one of the biggest wins for the program. It felt special in the locker room. There’s been a lot of wins in the last two and a half seasons that have felt special. I don’t think it’s more or less, but it was certainly a special one. In terms of springboarding, I don’t know. What I do think is that we are starting to believe maybe we can win, which is sometimes half the battle. Whether that’s against Bemidji (State) this weekend or whomever we play for the rest of the second half, there’s at least now a belief factor in how we can do things and I look forward to seeing how we respond. Our program’s come a long way in a short time, and we still have a long way to go. So, as we measure our wins, it was just a fun locker room, and it was exciting to be a part of.” 

St. Thomas goalie Olivia King keeps her eyes on the action during a game against St. Cloud State Jan. 20 in Mendota Heights. (Photo by Kylie Macziewski).

One of the top performers for the Tommies during Saturday’s big win was goaltender Olivia King, who held the potent Huskies offense to just one goal and made 25 saves to earn her fifth win of the season.  

“Olivia played great this weekend and I was excited for her,” Johnson said. “She deserves a ton of credit for a big win. I also look back to how we started this first segment of games in January, and we got good, imperfect goaltending all of the games we’ve had. Maggie (Malecha) played great and wants a couple of saves back. Calla (Frank) played great and wants a couple saves back. And Olivia put two games together back-to-back that I think she feels proud of. And if we can continue that competition, everybody wants to talk about goaltending, and I just like the group we have. I’m excited to see our players play well in front of them, which gives us a chance to make a big save. And if you can get a big save, it erases a lot of mistakes. It just does. So, it was fun to see Olivia do that this week and I’m looking forward to what we have this weekend.” 

What the Tommies have this weekend is Bemidji State, who is tied with them for seventh place. A sweep over the Beavers would be huge for UST in terms of playoff seeding as it makes its final push before the postseason begins.  

“I hear there’s a warm front, so that’s exciting that it won’t be as cold,” Johnson chuckled. “But it’s an opportunity to go up and hopefully compete in another game. I think last time we split, and both teams thought they could’ve won both games. So, I feel really excited about our preparation for the week in terms of trying to say ‘How can we be successful against Bemidji and I’m sure they’re feeling the same way. So, it should be a great weekend.” 

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