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UMD hockey: Bulldogs' Sandelin, Crowell planning to take on Miami, Bemidji State this weekend at Amsoil Arena

Both coaches remain unsure how many players they'll have available, but they believe they'll have enough cleared from COVID-19 protocols for the NCHC and WCHA series scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Duluth.

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Minnesota Duluth players gather around Minnesota Duluth goaltender Ryan Fanti (39) prior to the start of the game against Alaska on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Minnesota Duluth’s Scott Sandelin and Maura Crowell were proceeding Wednesday as if their teams were indeed playing games on Friday and Saturday at Amsoil Arena after having last week’s trips to St. Cloud State postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks within both programs.

Crowell’s Bulldogs are scheduled to host Bemidji State at 3:01 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in WCHA play while Sandelin’s squad is scheduled to host an NCHC series against Miami at 7:07 p.m. both nights.

Both sounded hopeful during their weekly media availability — now back on Zoom due to the spread of the omicron variant — that their teams would be playing hockey this weekend, but also acknowledged the uncertainty that lies ahead.

“As far as I know, we're on. We're off and running,” Crowell said. “But, you know, the phone can ring at any minute.”

As Crowell was speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, the phone rang for a pair of teams in Madison and St. Paul as an outbreak in the St. Thomas program forced the postponement of the Tommies' series at Wisconsin .

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Shortly after Sandelin got off of a Zoom with reporters in the afternoon, the NCHC announced an outbreak at North Dakota forced the postponement of the Fighting Hawks' home series against Nebraska Omaha .

It was the second-consecutive weekend the Mavs had a series postponed after an outbreak within their program postponed a home series with Denver. Having last played on Jan. 1, Omaha’s next scheduled series is Jan. 21-22 at home against the Bulldogs.

UPDATE: NCHC announces more postponement, schedule changes due to COVID-19

“We’re back in that world,” Sandelin said.

Both Bulldogs teams returned to practice this week with the players as they are cleared from COVID-19 protocols to return.

Both Sandelin and Crowell said the potential exists for their teams to have full rosters available this weekend against the Beavers and RedHawks, however, player availability remains day-to-day for both teams.

That’s nothing new for the men’s team, Sandelin said, as they’ve been dealing with injuries throughout the season, on top of a mini-COVID outbreak in November and then the World Junior Championship right after the holiday break — when they learned hours before puck drop in Mankato that Dominic James and Wyatt Kaiser would be back in time after that tournament was halted early by COVID-19.

“We haven’t had a normal week for two months,” Sandelin said. “You kind of get used to it. There are a lot of moving parts and you have to be flexible. Guys need to understand that and our guys have been great with it.”

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Crowell said it was “a little jarring” to be on a pause last week as her program felt they were in a good spot concerning COVID-19 with everyone being vaccinated and boostered, but “then it hit abruptly.”

“It's all part of trying to play college sports during a pandemic,” Crowell said. “I'd say we're fortunate to have the opportunity to play any games. The safety and wellness for our players is important, but the community as well. We take everything with a grain of salt over here.”

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