Eveleth-Gilbert sophomore Sam Mugge ended the Schwan Cup White Division title game against St. Francis/North Branch (7-7-3) 1 minute, 42 seconds into overtime when he lifted a shot inside the near post over the shoulder of Saints goalie Kendra Barck for a 4-3 final score at Ridder Arena on New Year’s Day.
The goal was Mugge’s second of the game, the first coming after she dumped the puck from the opposite blue line on a Golden Bears (3-9-2) line change, 1:41 into the contest. The shot beat Barck, who had posted her third shutout of the season in a 1-0 shoot-out semifinal win over International Falls the day before. St. Francis’ Erynn Downey was the hero, scoring the lone goal of the shoot out in the fifth round. The Saints opened the tournament with a 4-1 win over Luverne Dec. 30.
Eveleth-Gilbert added a second goal at the 13:24 mark on a soft shot that snuck between Barck’s legs and took a 3-0 lead one minute into the second period. Mugge assisted on the goal, giving her seven points in the tournament.
Despite the one-sided score, St. Francis never seemed out of the game, controlling the puck for the majority of the time.
There’s a reason why fighting is in front of the Saints mascot after showing the determination to comeback in a 5-3 win against Princeton. In that game, the Saints trailed 3-0 before scoring five times in the third period for the Mississippi 8 Conference win Dec. 3.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been in that position a lot so we’ve had that conversation before,” Saints coach Beth Kuehl said. “So our girls know how to comeback.
“Obviously we’re proud of the way they played and we wish we had another goal.”
St. Francis worked the puck around and found open shooting lanes against Eveleth-Gilbert, but couldn’t capitalize until the final moments of the second period.
The Saints got on the board with 52.5 seconds left in the period when junior Katie Sigfrinius intercepted a pass along the boards at mid-ice and sped past the Eveleth-Gilbert defense before ripping a shot past Eveleth-Gilbert goalie Kora Bonicatto. Kalley Wagner had two excellent scoring chances less than 30 seconds later, but couldn’t get past Bonicatto.
The late goal definitely set the tone for a furious final period. “We started to figure it out, maybe two periods too late,” Kuehl said. “The message before the third [period] was that we’ve done it before.”
Eveleth-Gilbert was out shot 21-5 over the final period and overtime with 16 coming on the power play.
Wagner, the Saints leading scorer, made it a one-goal game when she intercepted a pass in front of the Eveleth-Gilbert bench, cut between the faceoff dots and waited for an opening before firing a wrist shot past Bonicatto at the 2:46 mark.
St. Francis tied the game at the 6:28 mark when Holly Andersonn buried a rebound through traffic in front of the Golden Bears net on the power play. Jessica St. Marie and Afton Douville assisted on the tying goal.
Both teams needed extra time on New Year’s Eve to reach the New Year’s Day finals.
St. Francis beat International Falls 1-0 on senior Erynn Downey’s shoot out goal. Barck posted 21 saves for her third shutout of the season.
Eveleth-Gilbert’s Mugge scored 1:25 into overtime and Bonicatto made 39 saves in a 3-2 win over St. Paul Blades.
With seven wins, St. Francis is in a position to finish with more wins than in recent memory. “I think they have the confidence and realize they can win and we still have that battle to realize they are talented enough to win,” Kuehl said. “It’s fun to see them grow and start to win some games.”
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Saints, which is learning a lot about overtime hockey, given the team’s three ties in 16 games.
“We’ve had multiple games in overtime and know how to bring it but unfortunately it wasn’t enough today,” Kuehl said, knowing the third period has been the best for the Saints so far.
About the seven wins so far this season, she said, “Everyone has a more positive outlook and everyone feeds off each other’s energy and then we are able to rally like we did today.”
The conference jump from the North Suburban into the Mississippi 8 Conference is something Kuehl likes, adding natural rivals from Cambridge twice a season.
Kuehl said the team is reacting well to the change, with a lot more evenly matched opponents, especially Cambridge. “It’s fun to go against them and we lost the first time but that’s why we get another chance at them,” she said.
The Bluejackets visit the East Bethel Arena in the regular season finale Jan. 30.
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