By Matt Wellens
BEMIDJI, Minn. — Minnesota Duluth hits the road this weekend for the first time in 2019-20 for a showdown with its biggest postseason rival of the five previous seasons.
No, it’s not Minnesota, who the Bulldogs have squared off with three times in the last five years. It’s not Wisconsin, either. They’ve run into the Badgers twice in that span.
Eighth-ranked UMD is heading to Bemidji State this weekend for a pair of WCHA games set for 6:07 p.m. on Friday and 3:07 p.m. Saturday at the Sanford Center. The Bulldogs and Beavers have met more than anyone in the WCHA over the past five seasons — 31 total games to be exact — including four of the last five seasons in the opening round of the league playoffs.
The Bulldogs hold a 74-18-7 all-time record against the Beavers, with 16 of BSU’s victories over UMD coming in the last five seasons, where BSU holds a 16-15 edge in the budding rivalry.
UMD won five of six games against the Beavers last season, including a two-game sweep in a best-of-three WCHA quarterfinal series at Amsoil Arena. It was the Bulldogs’ second series sweep of Bemidji in the last five years, with the Beavers winning the other two series in three games in 2015 and 2018 at Amsoil Arena.
“We always have great games with Bemidji, oftentimes in the playoffs” UMD coach Maura Crowell said. “Some games in the past few years. I wouldn’t expect much of a change from their defensive schemes. They’re a shot blocking team. I think they’re really efficient in what they do and are smart when they have the puck.”
This weekend marks the first of conference play for the Beavers, who are off to a 1-2-1 start after a split with Lindenwood, followed by a loss and tie a week ago against Providence. All six games have been at Sanford Center as BSU finally hits the road for the first time in 2019-20 next week to take on No. 1 Wisconsin.
The Bulldogs have won three straight — all at home — after an opening weekend split with No. 4 Clarkson and a sweep of Minnesota State-Mankato to open WCHA play.
Eight of the Bulldogs’ 11 goals have come from just two players, senior co-captain Sydney Brodt and sophomore forward Gabbie Hughes, who have four each playing together on the top line. Brodt, who leads the team in scoring, has scored or assisted on nine of those 11 goals this far.
While Crowell always says she doesn’t care who scores the goals, just that they are going in, the coach said Wednesday it was nice to see more players contribute offensively last Saturday in the 4-1 win over Mankato as eight players found the scoresheet — even senior goaltender Maddie Rooney got an assist.
“The more people that can get involved in the scoring, it just makes for more fun,” Crowell said. “Our team loves that, loves seeing different people score, especially when Monique Aanenson scored. The bench went nuts. It’s always good. It makes us harder to play against and it relieves any pressure from the first line. That’s great, too.”
Rooney, Brodt taking part in USA-Canada camp
Both Rooney and Brodt are among the 23 players who will take part in the U.S. Women’s National Team’s week-long training camp alongside the Canadian Women’s National Team Nov. 4-10 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex just north of Pittsburgh. Two exhibitions are also scheduled to take place Nov. 8 and Nov. 10 between the USA and Canada.
Rooney and Brodt won’t miss any games at UMD, which had already scheduled the weekend off in anticipation of players being gone for the 2019 Four Nations Cup in Sweden, which was cancelled due to the boycott by the Swedish national team of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.
The two-month boycott — which included UMD sophomore goaltender Emma Soderberg — finally ended this week with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association agreeing to offer bonuses and compensate players for lost wages while they are with the national team. Players will also be insured while playing for the national team.