Bulldogs expect to have Hanley back against St. Cloud State: 3 takeaways from UMD hockey this week
Fifth-year senior center Kylie Hanley is expected to return after missing three games due to injury.
DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey will play its final regular season series at Amsoil Arena this weekend when it hosts St. Cloud State at 6 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday in WCHA play.
This won’t be the final home series for the Bulldogs, who last week clinched a best-of-three home WCHA quarterfinal series Feb. 24-26. Amsoil Arena is also hosting the 2023 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four from March 17-19.
The Bulldogs men’s team is off this week before returning to NCHC play Feb. 17-18 at Denver.
Here’s are three takeaways from Wednesday’s media availability with the Bulldogs women at Amsoil Arena compliments of Bulldogs beat reporter Matt Wellens.
Hanley poised for return
After hobbling off the ice on one leg on Jan. 27 against Minnesota and missing the previous three games due to a lower-body injury, Bulldogs fifth-year senior center and co-captain Kylie Hanley is expected to be back in the lineup this weekend against the Huskies.
Hanley has four goals and 10 assists in 27 games this year. Primarily a center, UMD has used her as a wing and defenseman in her career, but the middle of the lineup is where Hanley is the most valuable, Crowell said.
“Kylie is just such a stable presence for us,” Crowell said. “Just how we build our offense, through the middle — when you have (Gabbie) Hughes, (Mannon) McMahon and Hanley, things just feel right. They're all really defensive-minded and can work really effectively up the middle of the ice. Kylie just brings a good calming presence to our lineup.”
Fifth-year senior Taylor Anderson, who left Saturday’s 0-0 overtime tie and shootout win at Minnesota State, is questionable for this weekend’s series, Crowell said.
Stock of ‘MK’ on the rise
When Hanley left the game on Jan. 27 against the Gophers, the Bulldogs had a pretty good replacement waiting in the wings — literally — on that line in Naomi Rogge. The sixth-year senior forward is a natural center, but has been playing on the wing for the latter half of her career. For most of this season, Rogge has been on Hanley’s left side.
Instead, the Bulldogs turned to sophomore forward Mary Kate O’Brien of Wilbraham, Massachusetts. She played in just seven games last year as a freshman, but has appeared in all 30 this season, playing wing alongside senior center Mannon McMahon and junior wing Clara Van Wieren on the second line before taking Hanley’s spot in the middle on the third line.
Crowell said the team has been using O’Brien everywhere this year, especially in practice, filling in at center and anchoring the fourth line on occasion. O’Brien has been “working her buff off since the beginning of the year,” Crowell said, which is why they chose her to sub in for Hanley.
It was a move Rogge had no qualms about either, having seen the job O’Brien has done this year.
“She puts in so much work, so to finally see it all paying off and to see her get that goal and it's awesome,” Rogge said, referencing the snipe by O’Brien that sparked the come-from-behind overtime win Friday at Minnesota State.
“She's kind of a freshman, right?” Rogge said. “She didn't really get a season last year, and to see that role she stepped into was amazing. She's definitely playing beyond her years and I think it's exciting to see that she has a lot more time here.”
UMD prepared for emotional day Saturday
The Bulldogs will be honoring eight fifth-year seniors and one sixth-year senior, Rogge, on Saturday following the game against SCSU. The group includes six members of UMD’s 2018-19 class — Anderson, Hanley, Hughes, Anneke Linses, Maggie Flaherty and Emma Soderberg — plus two members of the 2017-18 freshmen — Rogge and Ashton Bell. Fifth-year senior goaltender Blanka Skodova, a transfer from Vermont, will also be recognized.
Crowell said she expects Saturday to be an emotional game — Rogge was already shedding tears Wednesday during media availability — but the team is prepared.
“It will be emotional postgame,” Crowell said. “We're tempering our emotions leading up and we know we're going to be home again after that, so that dials it back. When I think about what they've given, and what they've brought to my life, it's hard to put into words.”
UMD true seniors Taylor Stewart and McMahon will not be taking part in Saturday's celebration as they are expected to return for their fifth season in 2022-23. UMD's current junior class is the last with an extra season of eligibility from playing during COVID-19.
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