Asked prior to the start of the season whether Elizabeth Giguere would need some time to adjust to the WCHA, Minnesota Duluth coach Maura Crowell had a simple response.
“I think she’ll be just fine.”
Yeah, the 2020 Patty Kazmaier Award winner and three-time All-American out of Clarkson has done quite well for herself in her first four WCHA games at UMD, totaling eight points in four games heading into this weekend’s series against Wisconsin. Puck drop is scheduled for noon on Friday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
GIguere, a fifth-year senior wing, credits the Bulldogs for putting her in a good situation and with “great players” to start the season.
“I got a lot thrown at me, but my teammates and my coaches have been great helping me out,” Giguere said. “It's for sure a fast-paced game, but I'm just doing my own thing and just having confidence in myself and just having fun out there. That's the game of hockey.”
Giguere is part of a Bulldogs top line that includes true senior center Gabbie Hughes and fifth-year senior wing Anna Klein — the team’s two leading scorers from a year ago, and two of the top three scorers early on in 2021-22 behind Giguere.
Hughes, the team’s leading scorer in two of her previous three seasons, has seven points via four goals and three assists in four games. Klein, the leading scorer a year ago by a goal over Hughes, has two goals and four assists to start.
“We’re just starting,” Giguere said of her line. “This is just the beginning.”
Giguere’s eight points have come via two goals and six assists. While known for her goalscoring ability — she has 101 now in 141 college games — Giguere said she sees herself more as a playmaker, and the stats back that up, as 140 of her 241 career points have been assists.
“I enjoy the assists a lot, better than the goals sometimes,” she said. “I don’t know why. I think I’m a 50/50 player. I just enjoy playing hockey, to be honest with you.”
Scouting the Badgers
Seven months ago, the Bulldogs were on the verge of winning their first WCHA regular season championship in over a decade. However, Wisconsin tied the game via an extra-attacker goal with 87 seconds left in regulation and won it 41 seconds into overtime to take the title at Amsoil Arena.
Redshirt senior Naomi Rogge said last year’s series — which included a 4-2 confidence-building win in Game 1 before the heartbreaking Game 2 loss — is something the team thinks about, but it doesn’t dwell on it.
“We have a new team this year,” Rogge said. “We’ve added (Giguere) who is an awesome offense threat. We have Maggie (Flaherty), who is putting up numbers on the defensive end. We try not to think too much about last year, just be in the present.”
Wisconsin comes to Duluth a perfect 6-0 to start the year following dominating nonconference road sweeps at Lindenwood and Merrimack, followed by a WCHA sweep at home against St. Cloud State. The Badgers have outscored their opponents — who combined for nine wins last year and are off to a combined 2-13 start this year — by a whopping 39-2 margin with four shutouts.
Two of the team’s three leading scorers are sophomores, as Makenna Webster has six goals and 13 assists while Casey O’Brien has 10 goals and five assists. Fifth-year senior forward Daryl Watts, who won the Patty Kazmaier in 2018 as a freshman at Boston College, has six goals and 10 assists thus far.
Reviewing the tape from the Badgers' first few games, Crowell said the Badgers had the puck a lot in those lopsided wins. Her team hopes to flip that script this weekend at Amsoil Arena.
“We also like to have the puck. I think from last year’s series, that’s what we did a good job of is keeping the puck when we had it and putting it places where we can get it,” Crowell said. “We can win foot races with any team in the country, so we have speed, we want to use it. Our forecheck was really good the last time we played them. That’s how we want to play again. When you play good teams, you want to take away their time and space. So we should be on them within 1-2 seconds of them having the puck. Make them uncomfortable, and that’s something we do really well.”