Women's ice hockey successful on senior day, turns focus to nationals
The MSU D1 women’s club hockey defeated the Robert Morris Eagles Sunday, 7-5, to finish the season at 14-3-1.
The No. 3 Spartans were led by senior goaltender Hannah Johnson in goal and senior defenseman Shelby Weaver. Those two, along with three other seniors, played in their final home game and participated in a ceremony to honor their careers pre-game.
Sophomore Maddie Wolsmann and junior Sherine Diffendal both scored twice, with the remaining tallies coming from junior Kelsey Jaeckle, freshman Morgan Graham and sophomore Lauren Larson.
This game was certainly hard-fought, as the Eagles came with a fight they hadn’t shown the previous day, when the Spartans easily handled them, 13-4.
“Give credit to Robert Morris, they came at us real hard, we had to work hard to get the win," head coach Rob Blackburn said. "Sometimes you have those games, it wasn’t one of our best, but Robert Morris probably created a lot of that."
The Eagles were first to score early in the first period, but the Spartans equalized through Graham just 11 seconds later.
“I think that’s a quality that teams that can go far and win championships need to have, is to be able to bounce back after being a goal down and be able to fight hard and get one back right away, to not get down on yourself, and play harder when you get down,” senior Jenay DeCaussin said.
The Spartans scored three more unanswered goals and appeared to be on their way to breezing through another game, but the Eagles scored to cut the lead to 4-2. Once again, the Spartans came back within seconds, this time through Jaeckle.
“That’s the way this team responds. When we have any adversity, the whole team steps up. We usually step up and get a goal right away," Blackburn said. "That’s just been from the beginning of the year we’ve been able to do that.”
Johnson was a standout, Blackburn said, as she has started the last several games after injuries thinned the depth chart.
“Hannah kept us in it when we needed it early on, she made some great saves to allow us to calm down and take a little bit better control of the game,” he said.
While Sunday's win was important to finish the season, the team said the seniors were in a reflective mood postgame.
“It’s been really awesome to play here the past four years, I really like this rink a lot, and coming here as a freshman, I mean, it’s club, but playing at a Big Ten school is still really exciting," senior defenseman Shelby Weaver said. "I think we always play really well at our home rink, it’s a good way to end the season here."
“(This is the) end of a really important chapter of my life that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I loved being here at State, glad to play hockey and represent the school," DeCaussin said. "It’s a bittersweet ending, because I’m really excited for the next chapter that I have coming, but really sad to be leaving behind such a legacy and such a fun time that I’ve had here.”
Blackburn came into the program when his seniors were sophomores, and said they've all been "terrific" and "every one of them has been a huge part of the team."
Going forward, this team will look to compete both during the league playoffs and the national tournament.
"We’re really confident going into it, because we’ve been playing really well all season," Weaver said. "Really good chemistry between all the lines, we have really big hopes for nationals."
Blackburn said there are great teams in the national tournament, and it's gonna be a "dogfight" to come out on top.
“We’ve got to be able to perform at our best, every period, every game if we’re going to win it. And we’ve got a good chance of doing real well at nationals," Blackburn said. "We've just got to bring our A-game."