Minnesota Duluth coach Maura Crowell had big plans for Brooklyn Schugel a year ago and Schugel did as well.
A high-scoring wing out of New Ulm (Minn.) High School, Schugel was projected to take a big jump offensively after tallying five goals and five assists as a freshman.
Then the injury bug hit in the preseason, and it hit Schugel hard. She shredded her right knee while training, tearing her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus, as well as fracturing her knee joint.
“That was my first injury ever,” Schugel said last week on the News Tribune’s Bulldog Insider podcast. “I had never been injured prior to that. It was kind of a shock, not fun. Rehab, I’m still rehabbing. It never ends.”
Despite the magnitude of her injury, Schugel was back for the Bulldogs’ 2018-19 season opener. While not quite 100 percent recovered from her injury late last summer, she played in the first 14 games of the season.
Unfortunately for Schugel, she’ll be back in the stands this weekend when UMD hosts Minnesota State-Mankato in WCHA play at 7:07 p.m. Friday and 4:07 p.m. Saturday at Amsoil Arena.
Schugel’s latest injury is a sprained medial collateral ligament, but she’s keeping a positive outlook. That was key for her a year ago, Schugel said, as she spent an entire season watching hockey instead of playing it.
“There are good days and there are bad days. I feel like an old woman. The weather, when it gets cold out, my knee hurts so bad when it gets cold out, especially in Duluth,” Schugel said. “Everyday is a new battle. Recently I sprained my MCL, so that’s the new battle. That’s the new rehab. Everyday it’s something else, but everyday it’s getting better.”
UMD could use a big dose of Schugel’s positivity right now.
The Bulldogs (5-8-1 overall, 3-6-1 WCHA) and Mavericks (8-6-2, 3-6-1) are tied for fifth in the seven-team WCHA. UMD enters the final series of play before the holiday break off a bye, having lost five straight. The Mavs, coached by former Bulldog John Harrington, are 4-1-1 in their last six after splitting with Ohio State last weekend.
“Brook is a special person,” Crowell said. “Now having another setback, it’s mentally and emotionally draining for a high-level athlete that wants to get on the ice and help her team be successful. It’s not easy for her. I commend her for all of her positivity and work ethic.
“Right when an injury happens for her, she gets going on ‘All right, time to rehab, time to get better.’ Not a lot of players are like that.”
Schugel came to UMD in 2016-17 with quite the resume out of high school. She was a five-year all-conference selection at New Ulm and an All-State pick her junior and senior seasons when she led Minnesota in goals scored, recording 45 in 2014-15 and 44 in ‘15-16. She was the Herb Brooks Award winner in 2015-16 as well.
After a 10-point freshman year at UMD, Crowell was hoping to see even more of the player who put the puck in the net so much in high school.
However, Schugel first started having problems with her knee in August 2017 when she was training. She blew out her knee doing sprints and cutbacks, but after having a trainer look it over, the injury didn’t seem very severe, she said.
“There was no swelling, no bruising or anything,” Schugel said. “It just hurt so of course as I hockey player, you’re like, ‘All right, pfft, let’s go. We’re fine.”
Three weeks later during fitness testing, Schugel came down on her knee while doing vertical jumps, and it caved in. That sent her to the hospital for an examination. She wound up in a wheelchair, unable to move her leg after surgery.
Schugel said the rehab was the toughest on her mentally, but she learned a lot throughout the process, especially just by watching her team and the UMD men.
For instance, Schugel said she has more time on the ice to execute than she previously thought. Also, you can tell in the stands watching a game which player is passionate about their craft, and which aren’t, she said.
“It helped me grow a lot as a person and helped me appreciate hockey so much more,” Schugel said of last season. “Not being able to play for a year was awful. Now every practice I’m super stoked to go. I’m always in the gym. I want to get faster sprinting again like I was before. I want to get this back, that back. I’m always looking to improve now. I never take a day for granted anymore.”
MSU-MANKATO (8-6-2) AT UMD (5-8-1)
What: WCHA series
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday/4:07 p.m. Saturday
Where: Amsoil Arena
TV: Fox Sports North-Plus Saturday
Internet: flohockey.tv (video)