UMD women's hockey: Bulldogs draw Harvard in Minneapolis in 2022 NCAA tournament
UMD and the Crimson will battle Thursday in an NCAA first-round game, with the winner advancing to take on Minnesota on Saturday.
DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth is back in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season, seeded second in its regional and headed to Minneapolis to take on Harvard in a first-round matchup at 6 p.m. Thursday at Ridder Arena.
The winner advances to take on No. 1 Minnesota at 2 p.m. Saturday at Ridder Arena for a berth in the 2022 Frozen Four, which is scheduled for March 18-20 at Pegula Ice Arena at Penn State University.
The stage is set. 🏒— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) March 7, 2022
Full bracket ➡️ https://t.co/SAS2OKb3Ng #NCAAHockey pic.twitter.com/Q6WVXrxS4V
The Bulldogs played the Crimson earlier this season over New Year's Weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Bulldogs swept that nonconference series 5-2 and 4-3 to drop the puck on what has been a successful second half of the 2021-22 season for UMD, which is 15-4-1 dating back to Dec. 31, 2021.
"We understand the importance of nonconference games and those ones were the biggest, and turned out to be even bigger than we knew because it kept us ahead of them in the Pairwise. We'll be the home team on Thursday, which is great," UMD coach Maura Crowell said. "I remember a lot of things (from that series). Our first line was very impactful in our success that weekend.
"They have depth at all three positions — good offense, good defense, good goaltending — and so do we. I think it's a really great matchup for us."
The Bulldogs are a year removed from an appearance in the Frozen Four in Erie, Pennsylvania, where as the No. 5 overall seed they beat No. 4 Colgate 1-0 in overtime of the quarterfinals before falling in 3-2 overtime to Northeastern in the national semifinals.
UMD is the No. 8 overall seed this year after going 24-11-1 overall and finishing fourth in the WCHA during the regular season. The Bulldogs’ WCHA postseason run ended Saturday with a 5-1 loss to Minnesota in the Final Faceoff semifinals, also at Ridder. UMD could see the Gophers again on Saturday.
"We usually like the way we play there, maybe not this past weekend," UMD fifth-year senior wing Anna Klein said of Ridder. "That's also kind of fuel to our fire. We can show up better and we're going to be more ready and take it to them right away."
The 2022 National Collegiate Women’s Hockey Championship tournament — which expanded from eight to 11 teams this season — is the 13th for the Bulldogs in their 23 seasons as a program and first back-to-back appearances since 2010 and 2011. Those were the final two seasons of a seven-year NCAA tournament run that began in 2005.
This marks UMD’s third appearance in eight seasons under Crowell and associate head coach Laura Bellamy.
"It's definitely cool to see the program build like this and just have it be an expectation to make it this far instead of something that you're excited about," Klein said of UMD's re-emergence on the national stage. "It's really cool to see."
Crowell and Bellamy took over the Bulldogs program in 2015-16 and took UMD to the NCAA tournament in their second season, 2016-17. That season ended with a 1-0 loss to Minnesota in an NCAA quarterfinal at Amsoil Arena.
Crowell and Bellamy both came to UMD from Harvard, having worked together on the staff of coach Katey Stone for two seasons between 2013 and 2015. Bellamy, a Duluth native and Denfeld High School graduate, played four seasons in goal for the Crimson from 2009-13 before joining the coaching staff after graduation. Crowell was an assistant coach, interim head coach while Stone coached the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, and associate head coach for five seasons at Harvard from 2010-15.
"(Bellamy) as the alum has the tighter connection to the place, and I worked there," Crowell said. "We know a lot of those players from recruiting them, so it's always fun to play them and play our old coach."
The National Collegiate Women’s Hockey Championship began in 2001 — a year after UMD began its women’s hockey program — as a four-team tournament before expanding to eight teams in 2005.
Crowell and Bellamy were part of a working group this past offseason that led the charge to expand the tournament. A proposal was put forth by the group and the NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey Committee to expand the tournament to 10 teams, but that was initially shot down by the NCAA Competition Oversight Committee.
After Phase II of the NCAA External Gender Equity Review Report was released — highlighting large disparities between the men’s and women’s hockey championships — women’s hockey pushed for the Competition Oversight Committee to expand the tournament to 12 teams, but the committee settled on an 11-team bracket because it put women’s hockey in line with men, percentage-wise.
On Sunday, the sport celebrated another victory, as its tournament selection show was produced by ESPN and aired on ESPNews. It was the first time the women's hockey tournament selection show received national television-level treatment. In the past, the "selection show" was just a quick video posted to NCAA.com.
"It's super special to see that our coaches are the ones leading it, wanting us to have more opportunities," Rogge said. "They want to see the sport grow as a whole and when you have those people in your locker room every single day, that's the same expectations we want as well."
2022 NCAA women's hockey tournament
Ohio State Regional
7. Quinnipiac vs. 11. Syracuse, 5 p.m.
Winner at 1. Ohio State, 4 p.m.
8 Minnesota Duluth vs. 9 Harvard, 6 p.m.
Winner at 2. Minnesota, 2 p.m.
6. Wisconsin vs. 10 Clarkson, 6 p.m.
Winner at 3. Northeastern, noon
5. Yale at 4. Colgate, TBA