A sweet season for St. Thomas Women's Hockey turned sour Thursday on the eve of its Division III Women's Hockey semifinal game.
The No. 1-ranked Tommies' team and conference MVP -- senior All-America goalie Kenzie Torpy -- suffered a serious knee injury in practice, less than 30 hours before their first game in the Final Four.
The aggressive and No. 4-ranked Hamline Pipers took full advantage of the Toms' misfortunate and came away with a 3-0 win Friday on the Tommies' home ice in Mendota Heights.
Becca Zarembinski and Bre Simon scored goals 50 seconds apart in the opening 2:25 of the 60-minute contest, and Piper freshman Jaela O'Brien had a 25-save shutout. Hamline (23-3-3) advanced to Saturday's 7 p.m. Central time championship game against No. 2-ranked Plattsburgh State (28-2), a 4-1 winner over Adrian.
St. Thomas (25-2-2) didn't get much time to process the Torpy injury as they prepared for the first NCAA Final Four appearance of their era. The Purple shook off a slow offensive start -- the Toms had 17 second-period shots on goal -- but still took their first shutout loss in 62 games dating back to February 2017. The loss also halted a 22-game home unbeaten streak (20-0-2).
Torpy tested the injury in Friday's morning workout but soon realized that she would be unable to compete this weekend. The senior had played all but 57 of the team's 1700 minutes in goal through the first 28 games. Torpy broke the conference record with 69 career wins and allowed just 25 goals in 28 season games before Friday. Coach Tom Palkowski confirmed the injury will keep Torpy sidelined again in Saturday afternoon's third-place game against Adrian.
Freshman Eryn Cooley, who played just 52 minutes of college hockey before Friday, replaced Torpy as the starter. After the early Hamline flurry had the Toms on their heels, Cooley locked in and kept St. Thomas in the contest. She finished with 29 saves.
The Pipers scored a power-play goal after a breakaway try as Madison Kolbow connected midway through the second period for the 3-0 lead. O'Brien had 17 second-period saves to help keep the Tommies frustrated.
St. Thomas hit the cross bar once, and on the game went 0-for-3 on power-play tries.
Not only is it the first time a MIAC women's hockey team will play in a national championship contest, it's the first time a Hamline team will compete in a Division III title game in any sport. The Pipers took third place in women's hockey in 2018 with an overtime win over Plattsburgh State on the final day.
Two Tommie teams and one Gustavus team reached the NCAA men's hockey titles games last decade, although all three fell short and took second.