UMD women's hockey: Bulldogs back in Frozen Four after Hughes' strike ousts Gophers
Senior center Gabbie Hughes attempted just a single shot in an NCAA regional final at Minnesota on Saturday, and it sent the Bulldogs to the NCAA Frozen Four for the second consecutive season.
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Duluth is back in the NCAA Frozen Four for the second consecutive season, and the Bulldogs took down their biggest rival to get there.
One week after getting bounced from the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals via a 5-1 loss at Minnesota, the No. 8 Bulldogs returned to Ridder Arena in Minneapolis and beat the No. 2 Gophers 2-1 on Saturday in an NCAA regional final.
The game-winning goal came from none other than senior center Gabbie Hughes, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalist who for 45 minutes and 24 seconds on Saturday was held without a single shot on goal, or even a shot attempt.
It was the only shot Hughes attempted all afternoon, and it was all she needed.
“That was our goal, to take away as much time and space as possible, just like we did last week,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said of his team’s attempt to stymie Hughes and her linemates Elizabeth Giguere and Anna Klein. “It doesn’t take much for them to capitalize quickly on stuff and Hughes was able to get that one.”
The Lino Lakes native — who picked up her first collegiate hat trick in the 4-0 victory over Harvard in the first round Thursday — found some time and space cycling off the wall right into the right faceoff circle. She beat Gophers fifth-year senior goaltender Lauren Bench with the shot that senior linemate and fellow Patty Kaz finalist Elizabeth Giguere has dubbed the “Gabbie Hughes” — going high, right over the goaltender’s right shoulder.
“If you’re going to guess who’s going to get the game-winner, I’d say Gabbie Hughes is pretty hot right now,” said UMD coach Maura Crowell, who has led the Bulldogs to consecutive Frozen Fours for the first time since a run of four straight from 2007-10. “I love to see that finish.”
Senior goaltender Emma Soderberg — who Crowell called “one of the big X-factors” — finished with 37 saves for the Bulldogs, who will take on No. 3 Northeastern in a Frozen Four semifinal on Friday, March 18 at Pegula Ice Arena on the campus of Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania.
It was the Huskies who beat the Bulldogs in overtime 3-2 a year ago in the Frozen Four semifinals in Erie, Pennsylvania, after a controversial no-call on a trip allowed the Huskies’ Skylar Fontaine to score in the final minute of OT.
“Another revenge tour,” Hughes said of playing Northeastern, which reached the Frozen Four by getting some revenge themselves Saturday after scoring a 4-2 win at home over Wisconsin, the team they lost to in last year’s national championship. “We’re thriving on getting some revenge on teams and definitely looking forward to playing them again. I think that fires us up a little bit. We’re fired up just to go there, but to get revenge on Northeastern adds a little bit to that aspect.”
The Bulldogs and Gophers went into the third period knotted 1-1 following a power play goal by Gophers senior wing Abigail Boreen midway through the first period and a shot from the blue line by Bulldogs junior center Mannon McMahon late in the second period.
McMahon’s goal — just her fourth of the season — was the kind you see when someone drops the cliche, “good things happen when you put the puck on net.” She simply fired a shot on the Gopher net as she entered the zone, and Bench misplayed it with her glove, allowing the puck to drop behind her and trickle in past the far post.
It was McMahon and her linemates, sophomore wing Clara Van Wieren and freshman wing Gabby Krause, who put the offensive pressure on the Gophers on Saturday in the regional final, with McMahon and Van Wieren combining for seven shots on goal.
“They were flying, that’s a fast line,” Crowell said of Kruase-McMahon-Van Wieren. “Mannon and Gabby Krause are two of the fastest on our team. I feel like they were freed up the way they played. They were just going, and Clara is a horse out there.
“That sequence (their goal), we talked about it a couple times. It changed possession like three times, maybe four times in the neutral zone. We just stuck with it. Clara comes down the middle, passes it to Mannon and she didn’t hesitate to put it on net.”
After being on the attack in the offensive zone against Harvard on Thursday, UMD’s top line of Hughes, Giguere and Klein were forced to defend for most of the afternoon going up against the Gophers’ top line of Boreen, senior center and Patty Kaz finalist Taylor Heise and senior wing Catie Skaja.
The celebration: pic.twitter.com/GAfHC8YrZJ— Matt Wellens (@mattwellens) March 12, 2022
But that’s what Giguere and Hughes said they expected to do in this game, and they were ready. They embraced the challenge. It was fun, Giguere said.
“We knew we were going to play in the D zone, they’re not a bad team,” Giguere said. “They’re really good, really fast, really talented. We knew we were going to play in there and we did such an amazing job.
“(Soderberg) was amazing in net. We stayed calm, didn’t panic with the puck and I think that’s why we got the win at the end of the day.”
Minnesota Duluth 0-1-1—2
1. MN, Abigail Boreen (Catie Skaja, Amy Potomak), 9:50 (pp)
2. UMD, Mannon McMahon (Clara Van Wieren), 14:46
Saves — Emma Soderberg, UMD, 37; Lauren Bench, MN, 25.
Power plays — UMD 0-1; MN 1-2. Penalties — UMD 2-4; MN 1-2.