Shutdown goalie or clutch shooter in the postseason? Answer is easy when you have Soderberg

3 takeaways from UMD hockey media availability this week, leading with the mental impact WCHA Goaltender of the Year Emma Soderberg has on teammates.

college women play ice hockey
Minnesota Duluth goaltender Emma Soderberg (30) looks over the crowd during a timeout at Amsoil Arena on Saturday, Feb. 11 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The 2023 WCHA Final Faceoff will begin with a rematch of the 2022 NCAA championship game when fourth-seeded Minnesota Duluth takes on the reigning national champions and 2022-23 WCHA regular season champions from Ohio State at 1 p.m. Friday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.

Minnesota and Wisconsin will meet in the second Final Faceoff semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday while the winners play at 2 p.m. Saturday in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, 69 miles to the northwest in St. Cloud, the UMD men will wrap up their regular season at St. Cloud State. Puck drop between the Bulldogs and Huskies is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.

Here’s are three takeaways from Wednesday’s media availability with the Bulldogs’ women and men at Amsoil Arena compliments of Bulldogs beat reporter Matt Wellens.


Shutdown goalie or clutch shooter?

college women play ice hockey
Minnesota Duluth goaltender Emma Soderberg (30) makes a diving glove save against St. Cloud State during the first round of the WCHA playoffs at Amsoil Arena on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

UMD women’s coach Maura Crowell and fifth-year senior defenseman Maggie Flaherty were asked Wednesday which player they’d rather have on the roster during the postseason if they can only pick one — a clutch shooter or hot goaltender?

It was an easy answer for both, especially considering who UMD has in goal. That’s fifth-year senior Emma Soderberg, an All-WCHA first-team goalie who on Wednesday was named the WCHA Goaltender of the Year and a top-three finalist for national goaltender of the year .

Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said Wednesday you can’t put a price on having a goaltender like Soderberg behind you in the postseason.

“It's the mentality, I think, and the ability to just keep playing our game plan,” Crowell said of Soderberg’s impact beyond the saves. “I've been fortunate here to pretty much have really good goaltending, almost all the time. I might take it for granted, but it allows us to stick to our game plan and keep playing the way we want to play which is free.”

Soderberg’s 11 shutouts this season are a UMD single-season record and the most in the NCAA this season. Her .938 save percentage and 1.36 goals against average lead the WCHA, while ranking fourth and third in the NCAA, respectively.

UMD as a team has posted a single-season program record of 13 shutouts this year — Soderberg was involved in 12 — and boasts the third-lowest scoring defense in the nation, giving up on average 1.33 goals per game.

While Soderberg often deflects credit to those in front of her, Flaherty said it’s Soderberg that gives every skater on the team the confidence to do what they need to win.

“You’re not afraid to make mistakes, you’re not holding your stick tighter,” Flaherty said of what it means to have a goalie like Soderberg behind you. “Especially in these big games, that might tend to happen, but knowing Sods is back there and each of your teammates has your back, you can play free.”


Let’s get physical

college women compete in hockey game
Minnesota Duluth forward Clara Van Wieren (25) and Ohio State forward Brooke Bink (8) are pulled apart by linesman Aaron Neville after a whistle at Amsoil Arena on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

It’s probably a good thing that UMD and Ohio State ended up in the early game Friday instead of the late one, and it’s not because there is a risk of one of more overtime periods — though that is a possibility as all four games this year were decided by a goal, with two going to 3-on-3 OT.

It’s because the bodies of the Bulldogs and Buckeyes are likely going to need the extra recovery time. Crowell described the rivalry with OSU as being physical, intense, tough and also fun.

It’s the kind of series that physical defensemen like Flaherty look forward to.

“We’re both gritty, hard-working teams, and physical. We beat each other up,” said Flaherty, whose 17 penalties and 34 penalty minutes lead the team. “I’d say the Buckeyes give it back. The other teams, not as much. You don’t expect a big hit from a Gopher or Badger. But the Buckeyes, you do expect that and you’re ready for it. We like to play that way, because that’s how we are.”

Olympic rinks, love ’em or hate ’em?

college men play hockey
Minnesota Duluth forward Cole Spicer (11) shoots the puck on goal against St. Cloud State goaltender Jaxon Castor (40) at Amsoil Arena on Friday, Jan. 27 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The Bulldogs men’s program in recent seasons has typically played between 4-5 games each year on the wider, 200-by-100 foot Olympic ice sheets on trips to Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, St. Cloud State’s Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and Colorado College’s World Arena.

But with Colorado College now playing on the traditional NHL-sized 200-by-85 sheet at Robson Arena and the Gophers not on the schedule this year, UMD had to wait until the final weekend of the regular season to get on the big sheet this weekend in St. Cloud.

UMD senior wing Luke Loheit said Wednesday the forwards are big fans of the extra space, while the defensemen aren’t.

“I, personally, don’t mind it. I think it’s more space for forwards to be creative,” Loheit said. “When I go there, I feel like I have more time to build up speed and use my skill to my advantage there.


“The biggest thing I notice is being able to play with more speed, you have more space. But, you hear from some of the defensemen, they maybe don’t like it because you have to skate more.”

There are only five schools in the NCAA that currently play on Olympic sheets, and a handful of others that play on hybrid rinks like the 200-by-90 sheet in Mankato, where the Bulldogs played back in October — losing 6-0 and 2-1 to Minnesota State. Two of the five — Minnesota and Northern Michigan — plan to reduce the size of their rinks in the future.

UMD coach Scott Sandelin said he is not a fan of the big sheets, and it has nothing to do with him being a defenseman in his playing days. He noted the NCAA doesn’t allow tournament games to be played on the larger sheets, which is why teams are eliminating them.

“I like the game where it’s a little bit tighter. I like the game where there’s a little bit more contact. It’s a different game (at St. Cloud) to some degree,” Sandelin said. “Obviously, we're playing a team that plays there all the time, just like when you went to Minnesota. (The Huskies) use the space well, they use the width of it. They use it well and they have a team with good speed.”

For more on this weekend’s series, subscribe to the News Tribune’s Bulldog Insider Newsletter. Sign up here for free to have weekly previews delivered to your inbox every Friday morning .

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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