Hamline NCAA Tournament Bound For First Time Ever

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There is another chapter to be written in a record-breaking for the Hamline women's hockey team. Bre Simon scored twice and McKenna Huslander was superb in goal with 35 saves to lead the Pipers past Gustavus Adolphus, 4-1, Saturday in the MIAC Championship game at Roberts Arena in St. Peter. The Pipers, 20-4-3 under third year head coach Natalie Darwitz, earned a first-ever NCAA Tournament berth. HU will find out who they will play and when Monday, March 5 when the nine-team championship field is announced. 

The teams had split a pair of games when they opened conference play in November. The Gusties were riding a 12-game unbeaten streak and had won eight games in a row. The Pipers, however, grabbed an early edge and never let go. Becca Zarembinski started things, converting a feed from Zoey Lobejko at 5:42. Simon made it 2-0 at 10:00 with a backhander from close range. 

GAC picked up the pace from there and kept Hulslander, a freshman, busy the rest of the period. The Kalispell, Mont. native knocked away 17 shots, allowing only a power play goal in the final minute of the period. 

HU tightened up considerably in the second period, limiting GAC to just a few chances and nine shots on goal, all of it were handled by Huslander. In the final minute of the period, Dani Wright spied Simon breaking free behind the GAC defense. The sophomore sped in alone and deposited her D-III leading 30th goal of the season to give HU a 3-1 advantage heading into the final 20 minutes of play. 

HU, now 17-0-1 when leading after two periods, was pressured considerably at the start of the third frame due to a pair of penalties. Hulslander and the defense held firm and kept the Gusties at bay. Shortly after GAC goalie Amanda DiNella was pulled for a sixth attacker with 2:26 left, Simon narrowly missed a third goal of the game. Darby Dodds, her linemate, clinched matters with an empty netter at 18:06 and the Pipers were on their way to the NCAAs

It capped a remarkable turnaround for the Pipers, who won nine games in Darwitz's first season and  went 12-13-1 last year. 

Hamline was rated third among eligible teams in the most recent NCAA West regional poll. Gustavus was the top seed with Wis-River Falls (which lost to Wis-Eau Claire in double OT Saturday) sitting second. 

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