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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Three Stars: Bulldogs seek redemption at Ridder, season ends early at Amsoil Arena

The UMD women will return to Ridder Arena in Minneapolis for the NCAA tournament after a disappointing appearance there at the WCHA Final Faceoff. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs hockey season at Amsoil Arena ends earlier than expected.

UMD women's hockey at WCHA Final Faceoff
Minnesota Duluth sophomore goaltender Jojo Chobak makes a save Saturday against Minnesota during a WCHA Final Faceoff semifinal on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Contributed / UMD Athletics Photo by Dave Harwig

DULUTH — It was a bummer of a hockey weekend in “Bulldog Country” as the Minnesota Duluth women were bounced from the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals by Minnesota and the UMD men picked up just two points against St. Cloud State at home when they needed three.

The Bulldogs men followed a 3-2 overtime win on Friday with a 2-0 loss on Saturday to cap the regular season. By getting just two points, the Bulldogs must now hit the road for the NCHC quarterfinals, traveling to St. Cloud State for a best-of-three series that gets underway Friday.

The UMD women lost 5-1 to the Gophers on Saturday in the league semifinals at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, but will be back at Ridder on Thursday to take on Harvard at 6 p.m. in an NCAA regional semifinal . The winner advances to Saturday’s regional final against Minnesota.

Here’s look back at last weekend’s UMD hockey action, as well as a deeper look ahead via Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down and Three Stars by hockey reporter Matt Wellens.

Thumbs up to second chances

The UMD women’s hockey team put together a strong tournament resume this season with wins over Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and a sweep at Harvard over New Year’s Weekend.


The Bulldogs' biggest victory of all, however, came against the NCAA on Dec. 16, 2021, when the National Collegiate Women’s Hockey Championship tournament was officially expanded from eight to 11 teams, and right away in 2021-22.

UMD coaches Maura Crowell and Laura Bellamy were part of a working group this past offseason that worked on the bracket expansion. Their proposal was originally tabled in September, before getting revived in late October and early November.

“It's a really special moment for our sport and for our team and all the other teams that get to experience the NCAA tournament because of the work that was put in,” Crowell said Sunday.

The NCAA Division I Council approved a proposal Wednesday to expand the NCAA National Collegiate Women's Hockey Championship Tournament to 11 teams.
Expansion of the field from eight to 11 could happen as early as this season, in 2022-23 at the latest
And the women's hockey community, including the Bulldogs, doesn't want to wait any longer for expansion. They want a 12-team tournament, and they want it to happen this season.
Women's hockey sought to expand the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005, going from eight to 10 teams starting in 2021-22.
Under a plan that would be submitted to the NCAA this summer, the National Collegiate Women's Ice Hockey Championship tournament could expand to 10 teams, feature a fully-seeded bracket and take place at a single site.

Crowell’s team would have been the last team left out of the tournament had it not expanded from eight to 11 this year. The Bulldogs’ opponent, Harvard, would have been the second-to-last team out. Clarkson’s season would also be over as those three finished No. 8-10 in the Pairwise.

While finishing in the top four, or even five would have been ideal, the Bulldogs did receive a favorable first-round draw in the tournament. They’re the only team that doesn’t have to hop on an airplane at the last minute to get to their game on Thursday. The Bulldogs only have to make a two-and-a-half hour drive down Interstate Highway 35, and they’re heading back to the same rink they played in on Saturday, and before that, in December — Ridder Arena.

“It's nice to know where we're going, to be familiar with the rink, and just like all of the details, all of the logistics,” Crowell said. “We just did it, so there's a lot of comfortability there, which is great.”

Duluth vs Minnesota
Minnesota forward Savannah Norcross (27) battled for position with Minnesota Duluth defender Kailee Skinner (7) in the first period of the Gophers' win over the Bulldogs in the opening game of the WCHA Final Faceoff at Ridder Arena on Saturday, March 5, 2022.
Eric Miller / University of Minnesota Athletics

UMD also has familiar opponents in its regional, starting with Harvard, who it swept two months ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If UMD wins, it gets the Gophers again, and a shot at redemption following Saturday’s letdown at the Final Faceoff.

“Going back there, you know it's one game at a time, but potentially facing facing Minnesota on Saturday reminds me of 2016-17 when we played them in the in the (WCHA) semifinals and we beat them, and then they beat us in the NCAA quarterfinals here (in Duluth),” said Crowell, referencing UMD’s 2-1 double overtime win over Minnesota in the 2017 WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals at Ridder Arena, and the Gophers’ 1-0 victory over UMD in the 2017 NCAA quarterfinals at Amsoil Arena. “That's kind of what what I'm hoping for this year.”


Thumbs up to the NCAA women’s ice hockey committee

After dealing with controversy over the bracket that was put together a year ago during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA women’s ice hockey committee was praised Sunday for putting together a bracket that had the feel of a national tournament.

The only places the committee strayed from pure bracket integrity came with 1) pitting No. 11 Syracuse against No. 7 Quinnipiac instead of against No. 6 Wisconsin in order to avoid an ECAC vs. ECAC matchup between Quinnipiac and No. 10 Clarkson; and 2) putting UMD vs. Harvard in Minneapolis instead of Columbus in order to get a good crowd for the first-round matchup.

“I thought they did a really good job with protecting the top five, those guys were locks, and then having the flexibility with six through eight and then nine through 11 — to try to keep the integrity, but also keeping student-athlete experience high,” Crowell said. “And that's the same thing they do on the men's side, to try to make sure if there's an opportunity to bring a big crowd to a building that they're going to do that. I thought they blended it well.”

Thumbs down to no more hockey at Amsoil Arena

Minnesota Duluth faces St. Cloud State in final conference series of the season
Minnesota Duluth forward Quinn Olson (15) controls the puck against St. Cloud State on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

At one point, this weekend looked like it was going to be a busy one for the Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena. With the UMD women climbing up to No. 4 in the Pairwise and the UMD men sitting fourth in the NCHC, Duluth was in contention to host NCAA tournament game(s) and an NCHC quarterfinal series.

Instead, the horn sounded for the final time Saturday night at Amsoil Arena when the Bulldogs men lost 2-0 to St. Cloud State, falling one point short of clinching a home playoff series this weekend.

The Bulldogs and Huskies tied for fourth in the NCHC this year, however, the Huskies won the tiebreaker via Saturday night’s regulation win. It was the only game between the two squads settled after 60 minutes this year as they both won shootouts in St. Cloud and UMD won in OT on Friday.

The Bulldogs were trying to finish as a top-four seed in the NCHC for the seventh season in a row, but — like Denver a year ago — the Bulldogs streak ends at six.


The 2021-22 season marks the third time in nine NCHC seasons that the Bulldogs are not hosting a quarterfinal series, though no one hosted quarterfinal series a year ago as the entire tournament was a one-and-done at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

The other time UMD finished outside of a top four seed was in 2014-15 when a battered and bruised Bulldogs squad finished fifth. They were swept at No. 4 Denver, giving the team a week to rest and heal prior to the NCAA tournament.

The Bulldogs had everyone on the roster available this weekend against the Huskies. They got senior wing Tanner Laderoute back on Friday night, and while sophomore defenseman Darian Gotz was unable to finish Friday’s game, he was back on Saturday.

UMD is in no need of a week off at this point of the 2021-22 season, and at No. 11 in the Pairwise rankings , could be putting its streak of six-straight NCAA tournament appearances in jeopardy.

“We got to figure it out real quick, or our season might be done,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said Saturday. “It’s that simple. Hopefully there’s desperation. There better be.”

Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD Hockey Sports Performance Director Susan Hoppe — 'Suz' worked her 700th career game Friday on the Bulldogs bench as an athletic trainer. Hoppe is in her 18th season with the UMD hockey program and has been with UMD Athletics since the 2003-04 season.

Minnesota Duluth faces St. Cloud State in final conference series of the season
Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin checks in with hockey sports performance director Dr. Susan Hoppe on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

2. UMD senior defenseman Matt Anderson — The fifth-year senior and two-time national champion because the Bulldogs' career leader in games played by suiting up for his 175th career game at UMD on Saturday. He breaks the previous record held by Jim Johnson from 1981-85. Anderson's defensive partner, fellow fifth-year senior defenseman Louie Roehl, is now tied for second with Johnson at 174 career games played.

1. UMD senior wing Kobe Roth — The fifth-year player scored two big goals for the Bulldogs on Friday in the overtime win, tying the game at 2-2 in the third on a 5-on-3 power play, and then scoring the game-winner in overtime. While the OT win wasn’t enough to get UMD home ice this weekend, it did ensure the Bulldogs will finish with at least a .500 record this season and remain NCAA tournament-eligible.


Up Next

It’s win or go home from here on out for the UMD women, who take on Harvard in an NCAA first-round game at 6 p.m. Thursday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The winner will take on Minnesota at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Ridder.

All three teams are battling to make the 2022 NCAA Frozen Four, scheduled for March 18-20 at Penn State.

The UMD men take on St. Cloud State in a best-of-three NCHC quarterfinal series, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Friday at Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. Game is 2 slated for 6 p.m. Saturday in St. Cloud and, if necessary, Game 3 will be at 6 p.m. Sunday, also in St. Cloud.

The winner of the series advances to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on March 18-19 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Minnesota Duluth Men’s Hockey finishes regualr season against St. Cloud State
Minnesota Duluth forward Kyler Kleven (22) skates with the puck against St. Cloud State forward Jami Krannila (13) on Saturday, March 5, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

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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