College women's hockey: Mattila closing out career at UMD

Tawni Mattila says she honestly doesn't know where the past four years have gone, even though she has made memories during that time she will never forget.

Tawni Mattila says she honestly doesn't know where the past four years have gone, even though she has made memories during that time she will never forget.

Mattila, a 2005 Duluth Central graduate, has gone from former prep star to the first Duluth native to captain the Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team. She will be one of six UMD seniors honored at the DECC on Saturday at the conclusion of the Bulldogs' Western Collegiate Hockey Association game against Ohio State.

"Coming out of high school, a lot of people thought I was crazy and that I should have gone to college far away from Duluth, to explore a little bit," Mattila said. "But going to UMD has been the best decision I've ever made."

Mattila has been the Bulldogs' third-line center her entire four-year career. While not a big scorer, with 21 goals and 26 assists for 47 career points, Mattila has been a key part of UMD's penalty kill and helped the Bulldogs win their fourth NCAA Division I title last winter.

"I know what my role is," Mattila said. "Every year and every team is different, but UMD always has so much talent that just getting to play is a privilege and an honor. When you do get to play, it's fulfilling because you know that you've earned it."



It has now been a year since news broke that former UMD women's hockey player Iya Gavrilova received a stipend and salary while playing for a Russian professional team, and the results of the NCAA investigation into Gavrilova's eligibility status should be released soon.

"All I can tell you is that we're pretty close to having this thing finalized, based on all the feedback I have received from the people involved with the process," UMD athletic director Bob Nielson said. "It takes time on these issues."

Gavrilova, who remains enrolled at UMD, led the Bulldogs with 41 points through 26 games last winter before sitting out while the investigation unfolded.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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