Gustavus Adolphus is no stranger to winning. The Gusties have won 22 or more games in eight straight seasons, and 10 of the past 11.
This season has been no different, as GAC is rolling along once again with a 9-0-1 record after the first semester. The two closest games the Gusties played in the first half were the last two, as they tied Wis.-River Falls, 1-1, and then beat Wis.-Superior, 1-0, in overtime.
“The nice part about it is in a couple games we didn’t play quite as well as we should have,” Gustavus Adolphus coach Mike Carroll said. “We were able to survive and get it done. In the game we tied against River Falls, I didn’t think we played well at all in the first two periods, and then we played very well in the third period.”
Freshman Carolyn Draayer sent the Gusties into the holiday break on a high note though by scoring the game-winning goal 3:28 into overtime against Superior. The first-year standout leads the team with 10 goals.
“We bounced back the next week though and played as well as we could have played against Superior,” Carroll said. “It was one of those games where we couldn’t find the back of the net, but we dominated in all facets of the game.”
Even though Gustavus Adolphus is just one of three remaining Division III teams still unbeaten, the Gusties are ranked 6 in the latest USCHO.com poll. Top-ranked RIT (12-0-0) and No. 4 Middlebury (5-0-2) are the only other unbeatens.
“Overall, I’m pleased with how we are coming along,” Carroll said. “We’ve got a good mix of veterans and new players. We hope to continue to get better and play our best when it counts the most.”
Senior forwards Allie Schwab and Mollie Carroll have led the way on offense this season for the Gusties. Schwab has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points, while Carroll has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points.
“Allie is doing a really good job finding the back of the net as a senior,” Carroll said. “Last year, she got snakebit a little bit and hit some pipes, but she’s been playing well so far this year. Mollie is a perfect type of support and role player for her linemates, so she’s been able to get some points off of that.”
One major difference though for Gustavus Adolphus this year has been switching last year’s leading scorer, junior Lindsey Hjelm, to defense after she played forward her first two years.
“Lindsey is our best player, and we wanted to get someone back on defense that could do a little bit of controlling of the game,” Carroll said. “She’s learning on the fly and is the type of player that works hard and sometimes she gets penalized for being overly aggressive. She’s got one of the better shots around. It’s been a work in progress, but a good work in progress.”
Gustavus Adolphus is currently on what it calls “J-term”, which is a one-month long semester during January where kids are taking only one class or working on internships.
The Gusties will be on the road for seven of their eight games during “J-term,” starting with a pair of nonconference games at Wis.-Stevens Point this weekend.
“The month of January is going to be huge for us,” Carroll said. “Hopefully at the end of it we can look back and say we did a good job at handling quite a few games on the road. I think it’ll be good to get away this weekend and play a Stevens Point team that’s historically been very solid. We haven’t had an overnight road trip yet, and it will be good to have two nonconference games to get us ready for the meat of our conference schedule.”
After taking on the Pointers this weekend, Gustavus will play a home-and-home with St. Catherine and then travel to No. 10 Concordia-Moorhead for two games that will likely go a long way toward determining the MIAC regular season champion. The Gusties will then close January with a road game at Superior.
“We’ve done well over the years, so no matter who we’re playing, I’m sure there is some thought process that other teams are circling us on the schedule and going to bring their best,” Carroll said. “That’ll make us better though in the long run.”