Defensive struggles doom women’s hockey to third loss

Sophomore forward Rachel Werdin shields defenders from the puck in the offensive zone. Werdin and the Tommies fell to UW-River Falls by a score of 3-2.

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – The No. 8 St. Thomas women’s hockey team fell to No. 6 Wisconsin-River Falls 3-2 Wednesday night at the Saint Thomas Ice Arena.

Forward Kaylee Druk scored both of St. Thomas’ (4-1-1 MIAC, 8-3-1 overall) goals but they weren’t enough to overcome the 3-0 lead River Falls (2-1-0 WIAC, 7-4-1 overall) had built halfway through the second period.

Coach Tom Palkowski was unhappy with a few miscues by the Tommies, but he was encouraged by the fight he saw in his team.

“We didn’t necessarily play smart at times, which cost us a goal or two, but I like the fact that we kept coming at them in that third period,” Palkowski said. “We had some pretty good chances to tie that thing up.”

The most costly mistake the Tommies made was a poorly judged line change in the second period that led to a five-on-two rush and the Falcon’s third goal.

“All three goals (against us) were just lapses, easy mistakes that we should have known not to do,” Druk said. “I think just coming out every night and doing the little things is important, make sure those goals don’t happen.”

Wednesday night’s matchup featured a clash between the Falcons’ fast-paced, offense-first game plan that averaged just over four goals a game before the game and the Tommies’ tighter-checking play style that focuses heavily on defense. The Tommies were allowing an average of around 1 ½ goals a game going into Wednesday.

River Falls’ victory marked the second time they have beaten the Tommies this season and the sixth straight time overall.

“They’re just a good team,” Palkowski said. “Most of the games have been good going back, and they’ve had our number recently.”

The Tommies enter a three-week bye before hosting St. Scholastica Jan. 6.

“I think as long as everyone has a positive mindset going into the second half of our season, only good things will come,” forward Isabel Bianchi said.

Kyle Manderfeld can be reached at