Minnesota Duluth coach Maura Crowell couldn’t ask for much more out of her top forward line of seniors Anna Klein, Gabbie Hughes and Elizabeth Giguere six games into the 2021-22 season.

The Bulldogs’ “Big 3” have four goals each and combined for 31 total points heading into this weekend’s WCHA series against St. Thomas, however, the coach would like to see more than just those three names on the scoresheet, starting this weekend against the Tommies at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights.

Sophomore defenseman Nina Jobst-Smith, with a power play assist in the third period, was the only other Bulldog to register a point in last Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Wisconsin at Amsoil Arena as Hughes tallied four assists. Klein and Giguere had two goals and an assist each.

Take away the season-opening 7-0 rout at Minnesota State on Oct. 1 — where eight players registered a point and four different players scored goals — then nine of UMD’s 12 goals and 23 of its 33 total points have come from its top forward line.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Outside of the Oct. 1 openber, junior center Mannon McMahon has the only other goal among UMD’s forwards while the other two came from senior defensemen Maggie Flaherty and Lizi Norton.

“Our first line is scoring at a tremendous clip right now, which is fantastic and has taken us pretty far, but we certainly want that depth,” Crowell said. “We want to be tough to play against and in order to be tough to play against, you need to be able to have other teams worried about your other lines, too. We're fully capable of that. It's just we’re working through some things.”

Those “things” include senior center Kylie Hanley coming off a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury in late January 2021. Senior wing Anneke Linser is also battling an upper body injury that caused her to miss Sunday’s game against the Badgers.

Freshman forward Gabby Krause out of Andover, who has been in and out of the lineup on the fourth line, stepped into Linser’s spot on the third line Sunday against Wisconsin. Crowell said Linser is “TBD” for this weekend’s series at St. Thomas.

“We have a lot of options,” Crowell said. “We have people getting back into the swing of things, so I think sometimes it just takes a little longer than we'd like, but they’re fully capable.”

Scouting the Tommies

The Bulldogs and Tommies women’s hockey programs are meeting for the first time ever this weekend, but Hughes said there is still plenty of familiarity between the two programs.

While new to the WCHA and NCAA Division I level, St. Thomas’ roster is littered with players from across the Twin Cities metro area, including two former Centennial teammates of Hughes and Linser — Tommies junior forward Maija Almich and sophomore forward Alli Pitlick.

“They are nothing to take lightly,” Hughes said of the Tommies.

St. Thomas — whose head coach, Joel Johnson, is also the 2021-22 U.S. Women’s National and Olympic Team head coach — has already picked up a pair of wins in WCHA play over Bemidji State and St. Cloud State. The Tommies (2-3-1 overall, 2-3-1 WCHA) currently sit fourth in the WCHA at seven points. That's one point ahead of the fifth-place UMD (2-4, 2-4), which is coming off series against Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Tommies eight goals have come from seven different players. Freshman forward Abby Promersberger of Fargo, N.D., is the only one with two goals while senior forward Anna Solheim of Shoreview, Minnesota, leads the team with four points.

Senior Alexa Dobchuk and freshman Saskia Maurer have split time in net, with Maurer backstopping St. Thomas to both of their wins via a .957 save percentage and 1.50 goals against average.

“They're a resilient bunch. They're playing with no pressure. That fearless, just-go-for-it type of attitude can get you far,” Crowell said. “We talk about it all the time, we can't take anything for granted, can't assume anything. We try not to read too much about this, that or the other thing. Stay in the moment. We have to play good hockey. It's a WCHA opponent. We need league points. Straight to business for us.”