College hockey: UMD women's green blue liners thrive minus Elmes

The last time the Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team was without its top returning defenseman, Jalyn Elmes, it struggled against Minnesota. The junior co-captain missed both games of the series due to a family obligation and the Bulldogs wound ...

Bob King / Jalyn Elmes works in front of the net during action against the Minnesota Whitecaps on Saturday at Amsoil Arena.
Bob King / Jalyn Elmes, seen here against the Minnesota Whitecaps earlier in the season, missed Saturday's home game against Bemidji State. The Bulldogs handled it better than they did when Elmes missed the Minnesota series.

The last time the Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team was without its top returning defenseman, Jalyn Elmes, it struggled against Minnesota.

The junior co-captain missed both games of the series due to a family obligation and the Bulldogs wound up losing 5-2 one day before blowing a 2-0 third-period lead the next night in a 2-2 tie and shootout win.

UMD was again without Elmes on Saturday in the series finale against Bemidji State, but what a difference two weeks made. Minus the injured defenseman, the Bulldogs shut out the Beavers 2-0 for the series sweep.

Maddie Rooney, the Bulldogs' junior goaltender and Olympic gold medalist, played a big role in shutting down the Beavers, but the five remaining healthy defensemen left in front of her also buckled down. Rooney only had to make 24 saves Saturday to get her first shutout of the season.

"Huge progression from two weeks ago," UMD coach Maura Crowell said of her defensemen, specifically the four freshmen who played. "I thought they looked, I've said it before, they look like upperclassmen. They look like they had been there before. They took that weight and just ran with it."


Elmes suffered an upper-body injury during the third period of Friday's 6-1 rout. Sophomore defenseman McKenzie Revering is also injured and to top it all off, UMD's assistant captain, senior forward Emma Yanko, also remains out of the lineup with an injury.

While there is no question junior co-captain Sydney Brodt has the experience to fill the leadership void of two missing captains on the ice, that's not exactly the case with Elmes on the back end.

UMD is playing four freshmen on defense this season, and while it's lone senior blue liner, Shelby Brossart, has suited up for 92 career games, she played in just 11 a year ago.

Two weeks ago when Elmes missed the Minnesota series, Crowell moved sophomore forward Ashton Bell back to the blue line and the move may have done more harm than good. It took Bell - who has five points in six games at forward - out of the play offensively while defensively the six defensemen in that series finished with a combined rating of minus-7. Bell had no points when playing defense.

Saturday against Bemidji State, the five remaining defensemen had a combined rating of plus-4. And Bell set up both goals.

"Every weekend we're learning something whether it was Jalyn being away a couple weekends ago, now you have two captains out this weekend," Crowell said. "I think her being away two weekends ago helped us handle it better this weekend. I'm a big fan of adversity because it only makes us better. It's not really about the end results. We got the wins, which was great, but it's about learning in those moments. That's what's going to make us better toward the end of the season."


Like Crowell, UMD men's hockey coach Scott Sandelin doesn't mind when his team is faced with a moment of adversity. As the saying goes, "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."


That was the case for the Bulldogs on Saturday, who edged Maine 3-2 for the series sweep after pounding the Black Bears 8-2 on Friday.

"It's a different kind of win," Sandelin said. "You find out a little more about your team in those wins."

UMD led 3-0 in the second period, but allowed Maine to claw back with goals late in the second and early in the third. In between those visitor scores was a failed two-minute 5-on-3 advantage that began in the second and petered out in the third.

"When it got to 3-0, we thought it was over," Sandelin said. "The game is three periods. They got a goal and got some life. We didn't capitalize on a power play. Next thing you know we played a little bit tighter.

"I liked our last 6-8 minutes. I thought our guys settled in and did a much better job. That's some of that experience in that room. I thought our guys showed good resiliency and good character there."

• After playing doubleheaders this past weekend at Amsoil Arena, both UMD teams the road this week. The women play one final WCHA series Friday and Saturday at St. Cloud State before taking a bit of a break - minus an exhibition against the Minnesota Whitecaps - while Maddie Rooney and Sidney Brodt go play for Team USA and Emma Soderberg plays for Sweden at the Four Nations Cup.

The men will head to South Bend, Ind., to play Notre Dame at 6:35 p.m. Friday and 4:05 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of the 2018 NCAA championship game. Friday's game will be on NBC Sports Network.

Much was made in the preseason about the target on the Bulldogs' backs as defending national champions, but likely no team will be gunning for the Bulldogs harder than the Fighting Irish, who lost to 2-1 in the title game last year in St. Paul.


The Bulldogs, runners-up in 2017, know what it's like to be in Notre Dame's shoes. They had to face the team it lost to in the national championship, Denver, five times. UMD lost all five.

"We'll be hungry, we know they will be," UMD junior wing Riley Tufte said. "It's going to be a battle so we're going to come ready."

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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