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Bulldogs enter 2023 NCAA tournament excited to take care of 'unfinished business'

Minnesota Duluth isn't just looking to play in a Frozen Four at home at Amsoil Arena, UMD wants to avenge last season's NCAA title game defeat.

college women play ice hockey
Minnesota Duluth players gather around the net during the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinal at Ridder Arena on Friday, March 3, in Minneapolis.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — At this point in her college hockey career, Selection Sunday should have been a pretty routine morning for Minnesota Duluth fifth-year senior center and co-captain Gabbie Hughes.

Yet, when “Minnesota Duluth” popped up on the screen and was announced by ESPN, Hughes couldn’t help herself. She was downright giddy.

“Watching the show and being in the locker room with the girls and being able to make it into that tournament, it doesn't get old no matter how many times you do it,” Hughes said.

The seventh-seeded Bulldogs will take on ninth-seeded Clarkson at 6 p.m. Thursday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, with the winner advancing to the regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday against host and No. 2 seed Minnesota.

Compared to previous seasons — like the controversial COVID-19 bracket in 2021 and the first 11-team bracket in 2022 — there was little intrigue about the 2023 bracket. The Bulldogs had comfortably secured an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season, and thanks to how the Pairwise rankings shook out this year, UMD had a pretty good idea going in of where it would be playing this week and who it would be playing against in the first round.


Asked what she liked most about her team heading into this year’s tournament — which culminates with the Frozen Four on March 17-19 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth — Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said it was the reaction of players like Hughes on Sunday morning.

“I look at their faces and I can see the excitement, I can see people that know we have some unfinished business left in the NCAA tournament,” Crowell said. “I'm just excited for them to get the opportunity to go at it again.”

Scouting Clarkson

Thursday’s matchup pits the two alma maters of 2020 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner and four-time top-10 Patty Kaz finalist Elizabeth Giguere, who played four seasons for the Golden Knights before transferring to UMD for a fifth in 2021-22.

Asked Sunday who they thought Giguere would be rooting for Thursday, UMD’s Hughes and sixth-year senior Naomi Rogge didn’t hesitate.

“Us, for sure,” Hughes said, quickly followed by Rogge confirming, “Easy, the ‘Dogs.”

Elizabeth Giguere (7) of Clarkson defends against Gabbie Hughes (17) of Minnesota Duluth during a game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth on October 5, 2019. Giguere later transferred to UMD for the 2021-22 season as a fifth-year graduate student after graduating.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

The Bulldogs and Golden Knights last played each other during Giguere’s sophomore and junior seasons at Clarkson in October 2019 in Duluth and November 2018 in New York — series eight of UMD’s nine fifth-year seniors were part of.

Clarkson finished fourth in the ECAC during the regular season and lost in the ECAC title game Saturday. The Golden Knights were the last at-large team to get into this year’s tournament, which is their 10th appearance in 11 years.


Crowell said she’s seen Clarkson play a decent amount this season. The UMD coach — who previously was an assistant and associate head coach in the ECAC at Harvard — said the Bulldogs hope to force Clarkson to play like it did in the 8-2 ECAC championship loss to Colgate, rather than the 4-3 double-overtime semifinal win over regular-season champion Yale in the ECAC semifinals.

“They gave Yale a run for their money and can figure out how to keep things tight,” Crowell said. “That's not what we want to do. We want to play a little bit more like Colgate did yesterday, and put a ton of pressure on them offensively. We'll be focusing on that side of the puck, of course.”

UMD likes head start

Minnesota Duluth faces Harvard in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament at Ridder Arena
Minnesota Duluth forward Gabbie Hughes (17) celebrates after scoring a natural hat trick against Harvard on Thursday, March 10, 2022, at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

For the Bulldogs, Thursday’s first round regional semifinal against Clarkson won’t just be about surviving and advancing in the NCAA tournament. UMD hopes it can be a springboard like it was a year ago when UMD scored 39 seconds into a 4-0 victory over Harvard at Ridder Arena.

Rogge said playing that Thursday semifinal was key to shaking out any jitters that come when playing your first game of the national tournament.

“It was a big confidence builder for us — the offense that we had going, that we were playing the style of hockey we wanted to play,” said Hughes, who had a natural hat trick in the game, also scoring 25 seconds into the second period. “We were using our experience to our advantage in that first round. That gave us a lot more confidence, comfortability within the locker room. We were able to really enjoy the experience rather than have it be a nerve-wracking, pressure moments. We were able to know what we're capable of and run with that.”

NCAA women's hockey tournament

All times CT
Thursday’s regional semifinals
Ohio State Regional
8. Quinnipiac (29-9) vs. 10. Penn State (27-8-2), 5 p.m.
Colgate Regional
6. Wisconsin (25-10-2) vs. 11. Long Island (20-13-3), 5 p.m.
Minnesota Regional
7. Minnesota Duluth (25-9-3) vs. 9. Clarkson (29-10-2), 6 p.m.

Saturday’s regional finals
Yale Regional
5. Northeastern (33-2-1) at 4. Yale (28-3-1), 2 p.m.
Minnesota Regional
Minnesota Duluth/Clarkson winner at 2. Minnesota (29-5-3), 2 p.m.
Colgate Regional
Wisconsin/Long Island winner at 3. Colgate (32-5-2), 2 p.m.
Ohio State Regional
Quinnipiac/Penn State winner at 1. Ohio State (31-5-2), 4 p.m.

NCAA Frozen Four
At Amsoil Arena, Duluth
March 17 semifinals, 2:30 or 6 p.m.
March 19 NCAA championship, 3 p.m.


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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A 25-year veteran of the NCAA, Mark Bedics has worked over 100 NCAA championship events, including the men's and women's NCAA Frozen Four.
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