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College women’s hockey: Campbell, Badgers clamp down on Bulldogs

Wisconsin and Ohio State will play for the WCHA championship after the Buckeyes defeated Minnesota 4-3 in overtime in Saturday's other semifinal

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Maddie Rooney (35) of Minnesota Duluth stops a shot on goal from Delaney Drake (10) of Wisconsinn the semifinal round of the 2020 WCHA Final Faceoff at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, MN. (Jim Rosvold photo)

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey players came off the bench Saturday to join their teammates as everyone gathered around senior goalie Maddie Rooney in one giant group hug.

The Bulldogs had just fallen 4-1 to Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals at Ridder Arena. For UMD, this was it, season over, and for Rooney, the end of her collegiate career.

“Getting to the national championship game, and ultimately winning it, that was our goal, so right now it stings,” said Rooney, who led UMD with 26 saves. “Ask me a couple months from now and it might feel different, but right now it stings.”

Senior goalie Kristen Campbell made 34 saves and Wisconsin’s veterans led the way as the second-ranked Badgers dispatched of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs.

Unfortunately for UMD, the Bulldogs are ranked a spot lower — ninth — in the latest Pairwise rankings that determine the NCAA Division I playoff field. UMD is the proverbial bubble team that will remain that way, on the outside looking in when the eight-team playoff field is announced.

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Wisconsin (28-4-3), the defending national champions, advanced to play fifth-ranked Ohio State (23-8-6), a 4-3 overtime winner over Minnesota, for the Frozen Faceoff title at 2:07 p.m. Sunday at Ridder Arena. UMD, which needed to win the tournament and earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, finished 18-12-6.

Wisconsin, as the tournament’s top seed, had a bye last weekend and wound up playing three straight games against UMD, winning all three.

“After having not played last weekend, I thought we came out in the first period and had a bunch of energy,” Badgers coach Mark Johnson said.

Wisconsin took advantage of any early power play as senior Abby Roque, named WCHA player of the year Thursday, scored just 56 seconds into the contest. UMD answered less than four minutes later when senior captain Sydney Brodt got the puck all alone near the blue line, skated into the right circle and fired a shot through Campbell’s legs to knot it 1-1 on UMD’s first shot of the game.

“Obviously it’s not ideal that the first shot goes in, but you just have to flush it and put it behind you,” Campbell said. “The most important shot is the next one. That’s the mentality I took the whole game.”

Wisconsin took a 2-1 lead at 18:23 in the first when Daryl Watts punched in her own rebound.

The second period was a tough one for UMD, which outshot the Badgers 17-7 but fell another goal behind as the Bulldogs got sloppy in their own end and Caitlin Schneider made them pay with a goal at 7:57 in the period.

Sophie Shirley added an empty-net goal with 39 seconds remaining in the game, her 29th of the season.

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The Bulldogs played a quadruple-overtime game with Bemidji State last weekend but said fatigue wasn’t a factor.

“I honestly didn’t really feel it,” Brodt said. “I felt we recovered really well, and if anything, it conditioned us for this weekend. I felt good.”

UMD coach Maura Crowell sat next to Rooney and Brodt at the postgame press conference and was asked how the Bulldogs would replace their five seniors.

“It’s tough, and I don’t know if you can do it right away,” Crowell said. “It took them awhile to become the players they are. They’re tremendous people and athletes. They certainly left their mark and our program is in a much better place than when they came in. We come to these tournaments now expecting to win games. We’re not just happy to make the Final Faceoff. I know we have quality people coming up, but some people may be are irreplaceable.”

Crowell is in her fifth season with UMD. The Bulldogs went 15-21-1 in her first season in 2015-16. Rooney, who won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is perhaps the biggest reason for the resurgence.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed my time at UMD and have made some great friends and memories,” she said. “I can’t thank my coaches and teammates enough for giving me this opportunity.”

While this is the end of Rooney’s UMD career, it certainly isn’t the end of her hockey career.

Rooney was set to play in the Women’s World Hockey Championships beginning March 31 in Nova Scotia but it was canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. Rooney found out only two hours before Saturday’s game and was still trying to digest it.

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“It’s just very unfortunate,” Rooney said.

Crowell wasn’t surprised by the on-ice affection shown toward Rooney afterward by her teammates, summed up in one giant hug.

“This group loves each other,” Crowell said. “That is one of our strengths, how well we get along. That (hug) was just a little glimpse for the outside world to what we have in our program, and that’s what makes it special and allows us to compete with the best teams in the country. We play for each other and the Bulldog on the front of our jersey, and it’s genuine.”

  • Combined attendance for the semifinals was 2,693.

Minn. Duluth 1 -0-0—1
Wisconsin 2 -1-0—3
First period — 1. Wis., Abby Roque 26 (Mekenzie Steffen, Britta Curl), :56 (pp); 2. UMD, Sydney Brodt 19 (Lizi Norton, Maggie Flaherty), 4:36; 3. Wis., Daryl Watts 25 (Brette Pettet, Sophie Shirley), 18:23.
Second period — 4. Wis., Caitlin Schneider 9 (Delaney Drake), 7:57.
Third period — 5. Wis., Shirley 29 (Alexis Mauermann), 19:21 (en).
Saves — Maddie Rooney, UMD, 13-6-7—26; Kristen Campbell, Wis., 4-17-13—34.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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