College women's hockey: No. 4 Bulldogs hit the road this week to play No. 2 Wisconsin
For the third consecutive week, Minnesota Duluth finds itself face-to-face with a program ranked in the top four.
The No. 4 Bulldogs hit the road for the first time this season as they square off against second-ranked Wisconsin at 2:07 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in WCHA play at LaBahn Arena in Madison.
The Badgers, who return Annie Pankowski from the U.S. National Team and Emily Clark from the Canadian Olympic Team, are off to a 4-0 start after sweeping Lindenwood at home and Mercyhurst on the road by a combined score of 20-6.
Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson told the Madison media this week goals could be a little harder to come by against the Bulldogs' Olympic gold medalist, goaltender Maddie Rooney.
"I know one thing. She's pretty good at shootouts. She won a gold medal in a shootout and won Saturday night's game in a shootout," Johnson said. "We've seen her before. She's played a couple times against us, obviously, before going to the Olympics and plays very well. You try to create quality opportunities and look for second and third chances. Hopefully you get some of those situations early in the game and maybe capitalize on it."
Playing at home the first two weeks, Rooney has backstopped the Bulldogs to a nonconference sweep of then-No. 4 Boston College and a two-point weekend against third-ranked Minnesota to open WCHA play, losing 5-2 last Friday before securing a 2-2 tie/shootout win Saturday.
UMD coach Maura Crowell said she was pleased with the way her young squad of nine freshmen, eight sophomores, five juniors and three seniors bounced back from the defeat on Friday to pick up points the next night.
The fourth-year UMD coach also feels like her team has a greater sense of appreciation for the physicality of WCHA play compared to what UMD experienced the week before against Hockey East favorite Boston College.
"Every shift is a battle," Crowell said of WCHA play. "You need to be focused, you need to be ready. Two grueling games, fun games, but I think we learned a lot from that."
The Bulldogs' physicality will receive a major boost this weekend with the return of junior defenseman and co-captain Jalyn Elmes, who missed last weekend's series against Minnesota due to a family obligation. The 5-foot-9 native of Brandon, Manitoba, has built a reputation over the previous two seasons — and during her time with Hockey Canada's Under-18 squad — as a physical presence on the blue line.
UMD's assistant captain, Emma Yanko, remains day-to-day, however, in her recovery from an upper-body injury suffered against the Eagles. She missed both games last weekend.
"She is a big piece of our program, a big piece of our identity," Crowell said of Yanko. "She plays a brand of hockey that we want everyone to play. She's tough, she's strong, she's relentless on the puck. She can put the puck in the net. The team rallies around her. Missing her has been a challenge but everybody else has stepped up.
"The double-whammy of not having Jalyn and Emma was felt, but I think we rebounded on Saturday and had a much better game."
NO. 4 UMD AT NO. 2 WISCONSIN
What: WCHA series
When: 2:07 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: LaBahn Arena, Madison
Internet: flohockey.tv/btn2go.com (video)