The final series of 2020 for the sixth-ranked Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey program, a trip this weekend to Madison to play No. 1-ranked Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday, has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Badgers’ program.
The Bulldogs, who are 4-2 following sweeps of Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State, will now break for final exams and the holidays, and await their 2020-21 second half schedule, which has yet to be released by the WCHA.
“It is still disappointing, of course,” UMD coach Maura Crowell said. “We liked the way we were playing and we were excited to be heading to Wisconsin this weekend. Taking a pause now until after Christmas and we’ll go from there.”
The series with UMD is the second consecutive series Wisconsin (1-1) has postponed after two positive tests last week nixed the Dec. 4-5 series against Minnesota in Minneapolis. Wisconsin also had to postpone its Dec. 18-19 home series with Ohio State. The Badgers’ lone games to date are a win and loss Nov. 27-28 at the Buckeyes.
The Wisconsin men’s team also had to postpone its series this week at Michigan State after it had a positive COVID-19 test.
The only school in the WCHA to play fewer games than the Badgers women thus far is Bemidji State, which is finally scheduled to open 2020-21 this weekend at home against St. Cloud State after having its first two series postponed.
For the Bulldogs, this marks the first series they’ve had postponed or canceled this season due to COVID-19, if you don’t count the original 2020-21 schedule being scrapped and the season delayed. The six games UMD has played so far against the Mavericks, Huskies and Gophers are the most for any NCAA Division I women’s hockey program this year. The UMD women are one of 11 programs in all of NCAA Division I hockey to play six or more games thus far in 2020-21.
“We’re fortunate we haven’t had any pauses here at UMD,” Crowell said. “I’m happy with the way our kids have handled COVID to date. For this to be our first schedule hiccup, I think we should consider ourselves lucky.”
Seven women’s WCHA series have now been postponed in the first half due to COVID-19. Of the original 28 games the women’s WCHA announced for November and December, 12 have been played and only four more are still scheduled to take place. Two games were added to the schedule when Minnesota — whose series Dec. 11-12 at Ohio State has already been postponed due to a lack of minimum players available for the Buckeyes — and Minnesota State added a home-and-home series with each other on Thursday and Friday of this week.
Crowell said she did look at possibly finding a new opponent to play this week, but no one was available with the Gophers picking up a series against the Mavericks, the Huskies playing the Beavers and both the Badgers and Buckeyes shut down.
UMD will continue to practice this week and then break for final exams beginning Friday. Unlike Thanksgiving, the team will be allowed to return home to visit family for the holidays. Crowell said the WCHA is anticipating the season will resume the first week of January, with procedures in place for re-integrating teams back together after being away from campus for the holidays.
The women’s WCHA announced the first half of its 2020-21 schedule on Nov. 6 that included eight games for all seven teams with the Big Ten schools playing Big Ten schools and the league’s Division II NSIC members playing each other due to a difference in COVID-19 testing capabilities and requirements. The Bulldogs were the lone exception because the university was able to meet the rigorous Big Ten testing standards of six-times per week leading up to a series.
This story was updated at 12:15 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2020 with additional details and comments from coach Maura Crowell. It was originally posted at 11:31 a.m. on Dec. 7, 2020.