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UMD women's hockey: Bulldogs ready to battle Gophers at 'second favorite rink' in WCHA Final Faceoff

Minnesota Duluth takes on Minnesota in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The winner takes on Wisconsin or Ohio State for the WCHA Championship at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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Minnesota Duluth forward Naomi Rogge (9) leaps to hug forward Clara Van Wieren (25) after Van Wieren scored on Ohio State during a 2021 WCHA Final Faceoff semifinal at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Tyler Schank / File / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — For the seventh consecutive season, the WCHA Final Faceoff is back at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

And while the other maroon and gold women’s hockey program in the state — Minnesota Duluth — wouldn’t mind hosting the league’s postseason semifinals and final again for the first time since 2012, if it can’t be at Amsoil Arena, then Ridder Arena is a good alternative.

It is, after all, the Bulldogs’ second favorite rink in the league.

“Growing up going to camps there and youth stuff, it’s always fun to go back,” said senior wing Taylor Anderson, an Eagan native who is one of 15 Minnesotans on the Bulldogs roster and among the 14 that grew up in the Twin Cities metro area. “The atmosphere is amazing. It's usually filled with a lot of our fans too, because so many of us come from the Cities. We have our parents, grandparents, siblings. I always love going and knowing my grandparents can watch me.”

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Minnesota Duluth forward Taylor Anderson (5) puts the puck on goal against Minnesota State goaltender Chantal Burke (41) on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The No. 4 Bulldogs and No. 1 Gophers open the 2022 Final Faceoff at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ridder, followed by No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Wisconsin in the second semifinal at 4 p.m. The winners meet Sunday at 1 p.m. for the WCHA Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, though all four Final Faceoff participants are projected to make the newly expanded 11-team field.


Between UMD and Minnesota, there are 33 Minnesota natives on the two rosters, including 28 from the Twin Cities metro area. All but two played Minnesota high school hockey, making any meeting between the two schools an unofficial MSHSL girls hockey all-star alumni game.

Both Anderson and fellow senior forward Naomi Rogge — who hails from Eden Prairie — said what makes the games at Ridder Arena so much fun is it can be tough to know sometimes who has the home-ice advantage in terms of the crowd. Not only is everyone all wearing maroon and gold, but they have former coaches, teammates and friends that come out to watch the games, and that group tends to be neutral as they have players they are cheering for on both sides.

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Minnesota Duluth forward Taylor Anderson (5) and Minnesota Duluth forward Naomi Rogge (9) celebrate a goal against St Cloud State on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“I remember playing sections games there when I was in high school. It's just somewhere that I've been super comfortable with,” Rogge said. “I played countless games there in college as well. It's just a super, super comfortable situation where you're able to go in and you know what the rink is going to look like, you know how the boards work, you know that the sound of the rink is always going to be loud. It's just such a fun experience being able to look up in the stands and see so many familiar faces that are supporting your team and I think that's super special.”

Comfort hasn’t always led to success for UMD in Minneapolis, however.

The Bulldogs split their regular season series with Minnesota this season, including their last meeting just before the holiday break, which was at Ridder. UMD won 3-2 on Dec. 10 before losing 2-1 on Dec. 22.

The Bulldogs are 2-2 against the Gophers at Ridder Arena over the past three seasons — they didn’t play Minnesota there in 2020-21 due to a COVID-19 cancellation — and 3-5 against Minnesota in Minneapolis over the past four seasons.

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Add in last season’s 7-2 Final Faceoff semifinal loss to Ohio State, a 4-1 semifinal loss to Wisconsin in 2020 and the 2019 Minnesota Cup, and the Bulldogs are 4-7 at Ridder Arena the past four years.

The Bulldogs are coming into the Final Faceoff hot this year, however, having gone 15-3-1 since the Dec. 10-11 series in Minneapolis. The Gophers have gone 14-2 since then and are riding a nine-game winning streak.


Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said she feels confident in her team right now because it continues to find different ways to win.

“Sometimes it's a high, high-octane offense where we're putting pucks in the net left and right from all different people. Sometimes it's a tight battle like we saw this weekend,” Crowell said. “We can go up, we can lead, we can give up the lead, we can hang on, we can come from behind, we can hold on to leads. If you look at that, I think that's really important because you never know what kind of situation you're going to be in in a given game.”

Bulldogs to continue on minus Flaherty

Maggie Flaherty skates with the puck
Minnesota Duluth defenseman Maggie Flaherty (29) skates with the puck against Minnesota State on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The Bulldogs were without senior defenseman Maggie Flaherty for all but a single day in February due to injury, and it doesn’t sound as if the veteran blueliner will be returning to the lineup as the calendar turns to March, either.

Crowell said Flaherty remains out this weekend for the Final Faceoff, and that she is “TBD” for the NCAA tournament, which begins next week. Flaherty last played on Feb. 1 in a Tuesday makeup game at St. Cloud State.

Flaherty has two goals and five assists in 25 games this season with a plus-29 rating. She’s known not only as a strong, physical defensive presence, but the kind of blueliner that can get the offense going as well. She scored the overtime game-winner back on Oct. 9 in UMD's 5-4 win over Minnesota at Amsoil Arena.

Crowell said she was pleased with how the team adapted to Flaherty’s absence in the first series without her — a split at Wisconsin — but the Bulldogs are still working through how to play without her.

“We’re still figuring out our defensive schemes and figuring out how to put the puck in the net without her at the blue line, because boy, she created a lot for us throughout the season,” Crowell said. “Timing wise, it's good that we've had the past month or so to adjust to it. We're used to not having her, unfortunately. I'm really happy with the way that our team has played without her.”

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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