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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Three Stars: Bulldogs blue line gets in on scoring, but power play still struggling

From Olympian Noah Cates to seniors Anna Klein and Gabbie Hughes, it was a good weekend as well for the leadership of the UMD men's and women's hockey teams. Also, who is ready for Tuesday hockey? The Bulldogs are.

Men's hockey players in bronze and black uniforms compete with players in white and maroon uniforms at Amsoil Arena
Minnesota Duluth forward Noah Cates (21) shoots the puck on goal against Western Michigan goaltender Brandon Bussi (30) on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — It was another doubleheader weekend of Bulldogs hockey at Amsoil Arena with the Minnesota Duluth women hosting Minnesota State and the UMD men hosting Western Michigan. All four games were decided by a combined six goals.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs women swept the Mavericks 4-2 and 5-3 to further cement a top-four finish in the WCHA and a best-of-three home WCHA quarterfinal series Feb. 25-27 at Amsoil Arena. If the season ended today, that series would be against the Mavericks.

If the season ended today, the Bulldogs would also be in the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed playing at No. 4 Northeastern in the NCAA quarterfinals as UMD has made significant jumps in the Pairwise rankings the last two weeks to move off the bubble and into a position to receive a first-round bye.

Women hockey players in purple and yellow compete against players in white and maroon at Amsoil Arena
Minnesota Duluth players celebrate after scoring a goal against Minnesota State on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The seventh-ranked Bulldogs men took four out of six points in its back-and-forth NCHC series with third-ranked Western Michigan, winning 5-4 on Friday before losing 3-2 in overtime on Saturday . The only time UMD trailed all weekend was after giving up the game-winning goal Saturday in 3-on-3 overtime.

The four-point weekend kept the Bulldogs in the top half of the NCHC in fourth — six points ahead of fifth-place St. Cloud State and a point back of third-place Western. UMD is eighth in the Pairwise rankings .

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Here’s a look back at last weekend’s Bulldogs hockey action via the Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down and Three Stars by hockey reporter Matt Wellens, plus a look ahead of what’s to come for the Bulldogs this week.

WEEKEND REWIND: Bulldogs host Mavericks, Broncos
Gabbie Hughes, Clara Van Wieren and Anna Klein score in the third to lead the Bulldogs to a 5-3 victory over Minnesota State at Amsoil Arena.

Thumbs up to scoring from the blue line

The Bulldogs men’s team went into its series against Western Michigan with a total of three goals by defensemen in 22 games. Two of the goals came from freshman Owen Gallatin and one off the stick of sophomore Wyatt Kaiser.

This past weekend, the Bulldogs blueliners doubled that total and all three goals came from defensemen who had yet to score this season — or much at all during their careers.

“We’ve emphasized a lot as defensemen the past week, two weeks, just getting pucks to the net,” said UMD senior defenseman Hunter Lellig, who had a goal and assist Friday. “We’re trying to give our forwards opportunities to tip pucks, make plays, get rebounds, stuff like that.”

Fifth-year senior Matt Anderson and Lellig, a true senior, both scored goals Friday in the 5-4 win. It was only the third goal of each of their college careers.

Sophomore Connor Kelley scored on the power play Saturday to tally his first of the season and fourth of his career.

Kelley, Lellig and Anderson came into the weekend with a combined 12 points this season — all assists — with seven belonging to Kelley.

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“It’s huge,” UMD senior captain Noah Cates said of the defensemen scoring. “If we can have those guys shooting pucks — whether it’s going in or creating rebounds or tips or whatnot — that’s an element that will make us more dangerous offensively, which we need to add to our game moving down the stretch here.”

Thumbs down to the Bulldogs power play

It was another mixed bag of a weekend for the UMD men’s power play.

The Bulldogs went 0-for-3 in Friday’s win, though the second goal of the night — Anderson’s — came seven seconds after UMD’s power play expired with both power play and penalty kill units still on the ice.

On Saturday, UMD went 1-for-6 on the power play, with controversy in the second period. The Bulldogs gave up a shorthanded goal — Western might have been offside on the play — and had a power-play goal taken away by goaltender interference — which is always a coin flip.

In the postgame on Saturday, Sandelin brought up neither of the calls that went against his team in the second period. Instead, he brought up the missed opportunities by the power play in the third with the game tied 2-2.

The Bulldogs negated their own power play early the third with a tripping penalty by Quinn Olson 41 seconds into the advantage. UMD then failed to convert on a power play that came with 6:24 to go in regulation.

“It’s when we need the timely goal, from our power play, right? They got theirs to tie the game and we had opportunities and chances, but we’re not finding the back of the net,” Sandelin said. “I thought we played very well. That was a good game for us 5-on-5. As I said to (KDAL’s) Bruce (Ciskie in the pregame), it’s probably going to come down to special teams, and it did. Their power play is obviously really good.”

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Matt’s Three Stars

3. UMD senior wing Noah Cates — In his final series before leaving to play for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, Cates put up a goal and an assist against the Broncos. He’s going to be a tough player to replace over the next 3-6 games, depending on how deep of a run Team USA can make. On Saturday especially, he and his linemates — Casey Gilling and Kobe Roth — seemed capable of scoring every time they hit the ice.

“It sucks to leave these guys, but we’re trending in the right direction,” Cates said after the game Saturday. “I have faith in these guys. We have some huge series and it sucks to miss some of those games, but I obviously have the opportunity of a lifetime ahead of me.”

2. UMD fifth-year senior wing Anna Klein — Klein become the Bulldogs’ all-time ironwoman over the weekend, playing in her record-setting 148th and 149th consecutive games as a Bulldog on Friday and Saturday. That breaks the previous record of 147 games played by Olympic gold medalist Sidney Morin from 2013-17. Klein also had a goal and three assists against the Mavericks last weekend.

Women hockey players in purple and yellow compete against players in white and maroon at Amsoil Arena
Minnesota Duluth forward Anna Klein (19) passes the puck away from Minnesota State defenseman Charlotte Akervik (8) on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

1. UMD senior center Gabbie Hughes: Klein wasn’t the only Bulldog re-writing the record book this weekend. With a goal and five assists against the Mavs, Hughes tied Jessica Koizumi for 10th all-time on the Bulldogs career scoring chart with 155 points. Hughes needs one more point to move into a tie for ninth with Laura Fridfinnson. Hughes also took over possession of the No. 10 spot on the career assists list with 91 now in 111 career games. She needs one more assist to tie Saara Tuominen for ninth all-time and three more to tie Swiss Olympian Lara Stalder for eighth.

Up Next: Tuesday hockey in February

Over the next four Tuesdays, the Bulldogs men’s and women’s hockey teams will be making up the doubleheader that was scheduled for Jan. 7-8 at St. Cloud State.

The women are up first with a 3 p.m. game this Tuesday against the Huskies at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center. Three days later, the Bulldogs open a series against Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday at LaBahn Arena in Madison.

The UMD men are off this week before taking on the Huskies at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8, in St. Cloud. Two days later, the Bulldogs will hop on a plane to travel to Denver for a two-game series on Feb. 11-12 at the Pioneers.

Elizabeth Giguere, the fifth-year senior wing for the UMD women who transferred in this season after playing four seasons at Clarkson, said that as a player, she is excited for stints like this — playing five games in nine days. It’s something she did “a couple times” during her years as a Golden Knight in the ECAC.

“They’re always fun,” Giguere said. “It’s fun because it splits — I don’t know if coach would agree — but it splits the week a little bit.

“It’s really fun. You get to play more games and we get to travel the same day. It’s a different environment and I’m excited for it.”

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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