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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Three Stars: Hughes, Giguere, Klein put on a show out east at Harvard

Seniors Anna Klein, Gabbie Hughes and Elizabeth Giguere combined for seven goals and eight assists in a sweep for the UMD women at Harvard, while the Bulldogs men are held to a single goal in two losses to Minnesota State.

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Gabbie Hughes (17) of Minnesota Duluth celebrates after Élizabeth Giguère (8) of Minnesota Duluth scored a second period goal against Minnesota on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Hughes currently ranks first in the nation in points per game at 1.89 while Giguere is second at 1.83. Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The Minnesota Duluth men’s and women’s hockey programs returned from their holiday break over the New Year’s Weekend and came away with completely different results in their nonconference series.

The eighth-ranked UMD women went into Cambridge, Massachusetts, and swept No. 10 Harvard with 5-2 and 4-3 victories . It was the final nonconference series of the season for the women, who only played four games outside of the WCHA this year. UMD finished 3-1 in nonconference play, including 3-0 against the WCHA’s biggest rival, the ECAC.

The UMD men — also ranked No. 8 — closed out the nonconference portion of their schedule as well last week, but failed to add any additional wins against No. 1-ranked Minnesota State. The Bulldogs lost 2-1 in overtime on Thursday in Mankato and 3-0 at home on New Year’s Day in Duluth . UMD finishes 7-5 — and 2-4 vs. the CCHA — after an initial 7-1 start.

Here’s a look back at last weekend’s Bulldogs hockey action via the Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down and Three Stars by hockey reporter Matt Wellens.

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Thumbs up to the UMD women’s top line

The “Big 3” of the UMD women’s hockey program took center stage at Havard this weekend, in a series that was streamed for all to see on ESPN+.

Seniors Anna Klein, Gabbie Hughes and Elizabeth Giguere combined for seven goals and eight assists in the sweep at Harvard, accounting for all four goals on New Year’s Day and seven of the nine goals UMD scored all weekend long.

“It's fun for us to bring our team out east to showcase the talent that we have, because not everybody gets to see Minnesota Duluth out east,” said Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell, who was an assistant and associate head coach at Harvard before coming to UMD. “I hope people can appreciate some of the games that people put together this weekend — Gabbie, notably, and (Giguere) and Klein. I thought they were tremendous all weekend long.”

Klein, a fifth-year senior wing, had a goal and an assist both days. Hughes, a senior center, scored two goals in each game to finish with five points. Giguere, a fifth-year winger who transferred from Clarkson in the offseason, had a goal and five assists against her former ECAC rival.

Giguere, who now has 16 career points against the Crimson in five seasons, had a goal and three assists on New Year’s Day. She rallied the Bulldogs from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, tying the game at 2-2 and then feeding Klein and Hughes to put UMD on top.

Crowell credited her top line for “showing up huge” against Harvard not just on the scoresheet, but with its work ethic as well all weekend long.

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“The work ethic behind it is what sends that message to the rest of our team,” Crowell said. “This is what we expect. This is how this is how hard you have to play, especially against top 10 teams.”

Thumbs down to UMD men’s scoring struggles

Following the loss to the Mavericks on Saturday, Bulldogs senior captain Noah Cates used a form of the word, “humble,” for the second time this season to describe the feeling of being swept. It was only a month prior that he used it the first time following 5-4 and 5-2 losses on Dec. 3-4 at Northern Michigan.

“Obviously humbling,” Cates said Saturday. “It’s good to see what this group needs, but I think we've seen it too many times and we need to get back to how we were playing when we were number one.”

Against the Wildcats, defensive lapses doomed the Bulldogs, who started redshirt senior goaltender Ben Patt both nights due to both Zach Stejskal and Ryan Fanti being out with illnesses.

Against the Mavericks, Fanti was in net both nights, and playing at the top of his game. However, UMD was held to just a single goal on 50 shots in both games, including 23 on Saturday in the 3-0 loss.

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UMD mustered just three shots on goal in the first against the Mavericks on Saturday in Duluth.

“The first period was probably one of the worst periods I've seen us play, but I'm not going to sit here and say it was just us, because I think (Minnesota State) had a lot to do with that,” Sandelin said. “Let's be honest, they were a good team. They were they were on it. They were sniffing the sweep and then they came at us.”

Saturday was the second time in four games that the Bulldogs were shut out and third time overall this season. The Bulldogs — whose scoring offense ranks 37th in the NCAA at 2.60 goals per game — have been held to two or fewer goals in seven of the last 11 games (going 1-5-1 in those seven) and one goal or less in six of the last 11 (going 1-4-1 in those six).

With Fanti sporting a .934 save percentage and 1.62 goals against average, UMD doesn’t need to score much, and the numbers agree, as the Bulldogs are 10-3 this season in games where they score two or more goals.

“We got a long way to go, right?” Sandelin said Saturday. “We have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do. But that's why you have a season. We're going to find out if we want to get back to work and become a better hockey team.”

Thumbs up to officially looking at the Pairwise rankings

I have two very important rules around the holidays.

The first is no Christmas lights or decorations can be put up until after Thanksgiving.

The second is no looking at the Pairwise rankings until after New Year’s Day.

In my 15-plus seasons covering college hockey, including eight now for the News Tribune, I’ve relied on the USCHO.com Pairwise rankings for both men’s and women’s hockey . CollegeHockeyNews.com is also reliable for the men.

As of the evening of Jan. 3, both Bulldogs programs sit No. 8 in their respective Pairwise. That puts the men safely in the tournament at the moment as a low No. 2 seed, while the women are inside the bubble of the now-expanded 11-team tournament instead of sitting on the outside of the old eight-team format.

While it’s safe to go ahead and check the Pairwise after every game, don’t both with any “Bracketology” until February, as a lot can happen yet in the next month.

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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Ryan Fanti (39) covers the puck against Minnesota State on Saturday Jan., 1, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
CLINT AUSTIN

Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD junior goaltender Ryan Fanti — He did what the team needed him to do to sweep the Mavericks, stopping 28 of the 30 shots he saw on Thursday and 23 of the 25 shots faced on New Year’s Day.

2. UMD senior wing Elizabeth Giguere — After tallying a goal and five assists for six points at Harvard, Giguere now sits second in the nation in points per game at 1.83. He 23 assists leads the entire NCAA.

1. UMD senior center Gabbie Hughes — Who is Giguere second to in points per game? It’s Hughes, who leads the NCAA with 1.89 per game. She had four goals and an assists to be named WCHA Forward of the Week.

Up Next

Both Bulldogs programs are in St. Cloud this weekend for conference play to take on the Huskies at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Friday’s schedule features the Bulldogs and Huskies women in WCHA play at 3 p.m., followed by the men’s NCHC contest at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs and Huskies women are now playing at 1:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised on Bally Sports North. The UMD and SCSU men will drop the puck at 6 p.m.

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Minnesota Duluth goaltender Ryan Fanti (39) stops the puck against Minnesota State on Thursday Dec., 30, 2021, at Mayo Health System Event Center in Mankato. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
CLINT AUSTIN

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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