UMD women's hockey: A leader on and off the ice, Bulldogs make Hughes a captain
UMD senior center Gabbie Hughes was named an assistant captain during the Bulldogs' three-week layoff. She joins fellow assistant captain Kailee Skinner and co-captains Anna Klein and Kylie Hanley.
When Minnesota Duluth restarts its season this weekend at Bemidji State following 25 days off, another player will be sporting a letter on her jersey in addition to the three who began the season with one.
True senior center Gabbie Hughes was named an assistant captain last week ahead of the WCHA series against the Beavers off the south shore of Lake Bemidji. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:01 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, and 2:01 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Sanford Center.
Hughes is part of a UMD leadership team that also includes assistant captain and true senior defenseman Kailee Skinner, true senior center and co-captain Kylie Hanley and fifth-year senior wing and co-captain Anna Klein.
Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said Hughes was added as a captain for the leadership she has displayed on and off the ice this season.
“It became obvious and something that we were thinking about as a coaching staff for a few weeks,” Crowell said. “We brought our leadership group in, our captains, and they agreed. An obvious choice on the ice, but a lot of things go on off the ice, too, and at practices. She was really solidifying herself as somebody that we should put a letter on right away.”
On the ice, Hughes is leading UMD in goals (6) and total points (14) through eight games, and her eight assists are tied for the team high along with linemates Klein and fifth-year winger Elizabeth Giguere.
Off the ice, Hughes has taken on the issue of mental health as part Sophie’s Squad, a non-profit that was founded following the death of 14-year-old Sophie Wieland by suicide. The goal of the group is to raise awareness of mental health issues and remove the stigma associated with seeking help.
Wieland was a player Hughes had coached and the Wieland family has taken part in her father Terry’s summer hockey program in the Twin Cities. Hughes has been honoring Wieland all season with a tribute sticker on her stick , which is also prominently displayed in the video that’s played every time Hughes is introduced as part of the starting lineup, or scores.
Hughes said it’s an honor to be named captain, and a “great feeling” to know her coaches and teammates think that highly of her. But she’s not changing anything about the way she conducts herself on or off the ice. She’s going to continue doing what she’s been doing all along.
“It was given to me at a point in the season for what I was doing, so it's not going to change anything,” Hughes said. “I’m just going to keep being vocal, keep leading on and off the ice as the person that I am. That's how it's gonna be.”
Scouting the Beavers
Bemidji State sits tied for last in the WCHA with Minnesota State eight-games into conference play having beaten St. Thomas in their season and conference opener before losing six of their next seven WCHA games.
The lone non-loss was a 0-0 tie (and shootout loss) on Nov. 6 at Wisconsin when sophomore goaltender Hannah Hogenson made 56 saves against the Badgers. Hogenson — who sports a .943 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average in six games — sat the next day's game and the Beavers got lit up 8-1 by Wisconsin.
“Just the Bemidji team in general, they're a feisty team,” Hughes said. “They're super aggressive and the goaltenders are always really good. It's hard to get pucks past them and that's something that we've talked about throughout the years that I've been here — that’s getting that first one in and hopefully we can run from there.”
Senior forward Graysen Myers is leading the Beavers in scoring so far with three goals and four assists in 10 games. BSU’s scoring offense ranks last in the WCHA with just 13 goals in 10 total games this year. The power play is 1-for-22 after going 0-for-36 last season.
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Senior goaltender Emma Soderberg and sophomore defenseman Nina Jobst-Smith are both back with the Bulldogs and expected to play this weekend in Bemidji after taking part in Olympic qualifying a week ago in Europe. Soderberg and Sweden won their group to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing while Jobst-Smith and Germany missed out, finishing third.
Senior wing Taylor Anderson is also ready to go against the Beavers after missing the series against St. Thomas due to health issues.
UMD has named Bobby Feaster as the director of operations for the women’s hockey program. He replaces Nick Bryant, who left in the offseason to work with USA Hockey and the U.S. Women’s National and Olympic teams. Feaster, a native of Hershey, Pennsylvania, has previously worked with the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose and interned with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. He was also on the North Dakota men’s hockey staff as a student manager under coach Brad Berry.
The WCHA has extended the contract of commissioner Jennifer Flowers through the 2024-25 season. Flowers is in her third season leading the WCHA and has overseen the expansion of the league to eight teams with the addition of St. Thomas. She has also navigated the league through the COVID-19 pandemic and dissolution of the men’s WCHA. This offseason she also entered the league into a partnership with the Big Ten Network and B1G+ as a streaming partner.