UMD women's hockey: Bulldogs are enjoying themselves on the road, but Badgers up next
UMD is having fun, and racking up wins, on the road this season. Now the the Bulldogs travel to Wisconsin, where they haven't won since November 2010.
Less than 48 hours after making an approximately five-hour round-tip bus trip to St. Cloud State on Tuesday, Minnesota Duluth will be back on a bus for another five hours Thursday traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, for a WCHA series against league-leading Wisconsin.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at LaBahn Arena, and then another five-hour bus trip home awaits.
All that time on the road may leave some weary, but not Bulldogs senior center Gabbie Hughes. After taking only two regular-season road trips — and having three canceled — last season because of COVID-19, Hughes said she and her UMD teammates have gained a greater appreciation for playing games, not matter where they are, or how you get there.
“Whenever you get the chance to play, you play your heart out, because you never really know when you're going to get that chance again,” Hughes said. “We really use it as an opportunity to just have so much fun with the team. You're not going to classes, you're with your girls all weekend long, you're doing what you love and what you've been practicing for.”
It’s a good thing the Bulldogs are enjoying the road. After playing 12 of 16 regular season games at Amsoil Arena a year ago, 15 of 25 games thus far have been on the road, with two more road games scheduled for this weekend in Madison and one more day trip to St. Cloud State on Feb. 15.
UMD also has two more home series Feb. 11-12 against St. Thomas and Feb. 18-19 against SCSU.
The Bulldogs are just 6-4 at Amsoil Arena this season, and 11-4 away from it, having picked up sweeps at St. Thomas, Bemidji State and Harvard while stealing wins at some of the toughest places to play in the WCHA — Minnesota (8-4 at home) and Ohio State (12-2).
The Badgers are 6-1-3 this season at LaBahn, with the Gophers being the only team to go into Madison this year and come out with a win (plus a tie). UMD is winless against the Badgers in Madison dating back to the 2011-12 season, going 0-16-2. The last win in Madison came on Nov. 28, 2010.
A new outlook on the road could help snap that skid this weekend for UMD.
“It was really fun having a little day trip down to St. Cloud,” Hughes said. “The group was on a different level, our energy was so fun before the before the game and on the bus. We were having a blast. So I'm just going to carry that into this this road trip tomorrow.”
The Bulldogs do carry a lot of momentum into Madison, and not just from their good feelings on the road.
The Bulldogs are 8-1 since returning from the holiday break, with a sweep at Harvard over New Year’s Weekend and a key split at Ohio State. The run has allowed the Bulldogs to cement their No. 4 spot in the WCHA standings while soaring up the Pairwise rankings from bubble NCAA-tournament team to being in contention to host an NCAA quarterfinal at No. 4.
The Badgers, meanwhile, still lead the WCHA standings, but only by a razor-thin margin over the Gophers and Buckeyes. Wisconsin has also lost its No. 1 ranking in the human polls and slipped to No. 3 in the Pairwise by going 3-2-2 in January.
Crowell said her team is “dialed in to what we're trying to achieve this year,” as they head to Madison in hopes of avenging two losses suffered back in October to Wisconsin at Amsoil Arena.
“We have so much experience and a lot of older players on the team who have been to these places and understand how important every game is, especially down the stretch here,” said Crowell, whose Bulldogs lost 3-0 on Oct. 15 and 5-4 in a back-and-forth overtime game on Oct. 17 in Duluth. “They are really dialed in and know what we need to do and they're excited about it because we're playing good hockey. We have a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence and it’s the best way to be heading into a huge matchup this weekend."