College women's hockey: Cava leads Bulldogs offense into playoff series

Even before Maura Crowell became head coach at Minnesota Duluth, she already was familiar with the Bulldogs' Michela Cava and Bemidji State's Kaitlyn Tougas, who played together in high school for the Thunder Bay (Ontario) Queens Midget AA team.C...

Michela Cava (24) of Minnesota Duluth controls the puck during a game against Minnesota at Amsoil Arena in Duluth earlier this season. Clint Austin /
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Even before Maura Crowell became head coach at Minnesota Duluth, she already was familiar with the Bulldogs’ Michela Cava and Bemidji State’s Kaitlyn Tougas, who played together in high school for the Thunder Bay (Ontario) Queens Midget AA team.
Cava and Tougas, both seniors, led the Queens to a provincial title and silver medal at nationals in 2012 and now are leading their respective teams offensively going into this weekend’s best-of-three WCHA first-round playoff series that begins today at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn. Puck drop between the sixth-seeded Bulldogs (13-20-1) and third-seeded Beavers (22-9-3) is 2:07 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday, if necessary.

Cava has a team-high 18 goals for UMD while Tougas has 20 assists and 28 points to lead the Beavers. That’s no surprise to Crowell, who as an assistant at Harvard scouted and recruited both when they were with the Queens.
Crowell remembers both as “dynamic” players and now, as Cava’s coach, Crowell can say not much has changed for the Thunder Bay native.
“I’ve been a fan of hers for many years. To have her on the roster this year was awesome for me,” said Crowell, who targeted Cava while at Harvard when she indicated she preferred to play at an eastern school. “She just plays with a lot of heart, a lot of guts. She’ll go into those dirty areas where maybe some other people are a little more tentative. She gets in there and she can score goals. She is one of our fastest, if not fastest skaters.
“She puts the puck in the net, has great vision, works hard up and down the ice and plays with a lot of passion. I’m glad that hasn’t left her game.”
Cava is putting up career numbers in her fourth and final year of NCAA hockey and second at UMD. In addition to a career-high 18 goals, her 17 assists this season ties a career best to give her a college-high of 35 points.
Cava points out it helps to center a line that features junior wings Ashleigh Brykaliuk (16-28-44) and Lara Stalder (15-21-36). Combined the three have scored 59 percent of their team’s goals.
“She’s been awesome,” Brykaliuk said of Cava. “Not just me and Stalder, the whole team is pumped for her coming back this year and having such an impact with the team and such. It’s been so much fun playing with her and Stalder. We’ve been doing pretty well this year. We’re looking to do even better through the next stretch.”
Cava began her collegiate career at the University of Connecticut, scoring 17 points off 10 goals and seven assists as a freshman, followed by 27 points off 10 goals and 17 assists as a sophomore.
She went to UConn initially because she wanted to leave home and try something new, but after two seasons decided to transfer to UMD to be closer to home and play on a more competitive team - the Huskies won just 12 games in her two seasons.
Academically, the move to UMD worked out well for Cava. The school offered a communication sciences and disorders major. She wants to go into speech pathology.
What UMD didn’t initially have for her was much of an opportunity on the ice. Cava appeared in 32 of 37 games as a junior, but was buried on the line chart and not involved on power plays. She finished with just three goals and three assists.
“I’ve gotten the chance to break out and prove myself and show what I can do,” Cava said. “Last year was definitely tough. There’s not many ways to describe it. I just took everything I could learn from it and take it into this year. I went home last summer and worked as hard as I could to get to the position I am in now. It was so hard not to take that season negatively but I tried to take everything I could and bring it to this year.
“This summer was one of the best summers I’ve had training-wise. I really focused on hockey. This is my last year so I wanted to give it all I could this year.”

Related Topics: BULLDOG SPORTS
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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