College women's hockey: Bulldogs ready to celebrate diverse senior class in regular season home finale
When Catherine Daoust graduates from Minnesota Duluth in the spring, she will have not only completed a four-year collegiate hockey career and a degree in mechanical engineering.
The Bulldogs defenseman from L'Ile-Bizard, Quebec, also will have gained a handful of couches to crash on during her upcoming trip through Europe.
"That's one of the reasons I came to UMD was the diversity and knowing that once I graduate, I'm going to have friends all over Europe," Daoust said. "That's what's fun. You get to know other cultures."
Daoust is part of a seven-member senior class at UMD that features Americans, a Canadian, French-Canadian, Swedes and a Czech. They'll all be honored during a Senior Day ceremony following a WCHA tussle against second-ranked Wisconsin at 4:07 p.m. Saturday at Amsoil Arena in what could be the Bulldogs' final home game of 2017-18.
UMD (12-14-3 overall, 8-11-2 WCHA) sits fourth in the WCHA following a 5-0 loss Friday to the Badgers (27-3-1, 18-2-1), who in front of 1,856 fans clinched their third straight regular-season WCHA title with the win. Fifth-place Bemidji State lost 4-0 at St. Cloud State to remain a point back of UMD in the race for home ice in the first round of the league playoffs.
The Badgers jumped to a 3-0 lead after the first period with goals by Caitlin Schneider, Maddie Rowe and Lauren Williams. Goals by Presley Norby in the second and Baylee Willhausen in the third chased UMD senior goaltender Jessica Convery from the net 5:42 into the third, leaving sophomore Catherine Johnson to finish out the loss.
Wisconsin sophomore goalie Kristen Campbell finished with 17 saves for her 10th shutout of the season.
"First period spelled the whole game out right there," Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said. "Getting in a three-goal hole against the best team in the country is not a good way to get it going. Unfortunately we were not ready and it's tough to climb out of that hole.
"For senior day, one would hope that everybody will be geared up because those guys have given a lot to this program."
Convery, a native of Commerce Township, Mich., who transferred in to UMD before this season, is one of just two Americans among the 2017-18 senior class along with defenseman Lynn Astrup of Warroad, Minn.
Daoust and Jessica Healey of Edmonton, Alberta, hail from north of the border. Defensemen Michelle Lowenhielm and Linnea Hedin are from Sweden and fifth-year senior forward Katerina Mrazova, who came to UMD in the fall of 2013, hails from the Czech Republic.
Astrup said it was quite the experience being the lone American among the 2014-15 freshmen. That group also included current Swedish Olympian Maria Lindh, who graduated from UMD after just three seasons, and Finnish Olympian Eveliina Suonpaa, who played just one semester at UMD in 2015.
"So many new memories, new experiences," Astrup said of her freshman year. "I was the only one from the U.S. in that freshman class and the only American living in my freshmen hockey house. I got exposed to a lot of different cultures, a lot of new girls who were living here for the first time. A lot of challenges that year."
Navigating a new school and new cultures was just the tip of the iceberg for the 2014-15 freshmen, who learned midway through their first collegiate season that head coach Shannon Miller would not be back with the Bulldogs in 2015-16 after 16 seasons at UMD and five national championships.
The tumultuous second half of the season led to a range of emotions for the last group of players still at UMD to have played for Miller. Lowenhielm said she felt nervous. Healey called it scary.
The seniors said once Crowell and her staff were hired, they reached out to the returning players immediately and all of those feelings of uncertainty vanished.
"The coaches have been amazing. I have a really good relationship with them," Lowenhielm said. "I can talk with them. I know they can talk to me if there is anything. We just have good communication. They have been amazing. They're good people. They know hockey. They're professional."
Two years later the Bulldogs found themselves playing Wisconsin in Minneapolis for a WCHA postseason championship, and the following week they hosted Minnesota in an NCAA quarterfinal game at Amsoil Arena.
While neither result went the Bulldogs way — UMD lost 4-1 to the Badgers and 1-0 to the Gophers — it was a season to remember as the 25 wins included a home sweep of the Gophers during the regular season and a double-overtime victory over the Gophers in a WCHA semifinal at Ridder Arena.
"We caught fire last year and absolutely went on a great run," Healey said. "I look at coach and that was all her. She came in, she knew what she wanted to do. She set us straight with our expectations. It was a great run.
"Being that close to the Frozen Four, I still have a salty taste in my mouth from it. We're hoping to go on a run here."
Minn. Duluth 0-0-0—0
First period — 1. UW, Caitlin Schneider 5 (Brette Pettet, Lauren Williams), 4:09; 2. UW, Maddie Rowe 7 (Mekenzie Steffen, Maddie Rolfes), 5:27; 3. UW, Williams 3 (Pettet, Sam Cogan), 19:01.
Second period — 4. UW, Norby Presley 9 (Grace Bowlby, Schneider), 13:12.
Third period — 5. UW, Baylee Wellhausen 7 (Rowe, Rolfes), 4:19.
Saves — Kristen Campbell, UW, 3-9-5—17; Jessica Convery, UMD, 9-11-2—22; Catherine Johnson, UMD, x-x-9—9.