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Late goal lifts Liberty over MSU women’s hockey for WMCHL title

ST. LOUIS — The Beavers aren’t going to forget about the inaugural Women’s Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (WMCHL) tournament championship game any time soon.

With 17 seconds left in regulation, Alex Smibert sent the No. 1-ranked Liberty Flames into a frenzy. Smibert’s late goal secured a 2-1 win for Liberty over the No. 2-ranked Minot State women’s hockey team Sunday afternoon at FSI Shark Tank in St. Louis.

The conference championship guarantees Liberty a spot at the ACHA Division I National Tournament (and more than likely the No. 1 seed).

The Flames capitalized on an MSU turnover to score the first goal of the game in the second period. The Beavers, trying to build up a power-play rush out of their own zone, gifted the puck to Shannon Fehr, who found Shelby Bradford for a short-handed goal.

With time starting to become a factor in the third period, the Beavers went back to the same Mackenzie Balogh to Sami Jo Henry combination that scored them their only goal in a 1-0 win over Lindenwood-Belleville in the conference semifinals on Saturday. A game summary for that contest can be found online at minotdailynews.com.

Henry got a shot off Sunday despite being harassed by a defender and lacking a quality shooting angle. Yet, it was enough to fool Liberty goaltender Kayla Savoie Penton, as the puck went five-hole between her legs to tie the game at 1-1.

Another MSU turnover helped create the final goal. Smibert capitalized on the mistake with a gut-wrenching unassisted tally that the Beavers had to swallow with 17 seconds remaining.

MSU goaltender Jordan Ivanco made 31 saves, but couldn’t bail the Beavers out after two costly turnovers turned into goals.

The Beavers hadn’t lost a game since Oct. 11, 2019 — a 22-game unbeaten streak.

Next up is the ACHA National Tournament in Frisco, Texas. Minot State will have to wait and see where they end up in the final rankings to determine its seed at nationals.

A first-round best two out of three series will be held March 25-27. Semifinals to follow on March 28 and then the national championship game on March 29.

Follow the Minot Daily News on Twitter @MinotDailyNews.

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