In the leadup to the program’s first game Friday at Minnesota State-Mankato following a 257-day layoff, the word “grateful” was dropped by multiple members of the Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey program.

For redshirt junior Naomi Rogge, it was because she’s waited over 600 days after missing all of last season because of a knee injury.

For head coach Maura Crowell, it’s because there are at least eight Division I programs who will never take the ice in 2020-21 — their seasons canceled due to safety concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a really interesting world we’re living in right now,” Crowell said Wednesday. “We understand that friends of our players, friends of mine across the country aren’t able to (play). If anything, it makes us even more appreciative and aware of how fortunate we are to play games.”

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Crowell said Friday’s game was a long time coming for her Bulldogs, who then wasted little time finding the back of the net by scoring a trio of first-period goals en route to a 5-0 victory over the Mavericks in WCHA play at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato.

Game 2 of the series is at 3:05 p.m. Saturday back in Mankato.

Junior wing Taylor Anderson, redshirt junior wing Naomi Rogge and senior wing Anna Klein all scored in the opening 20 minutes while new Bulldogs starting goaltender Emma Soderberg — making just her sixth collegiate start — made 22 saves for her first collegiate shutout.

“It helps a lot to get going right away and get a lead,” Rogge said. “That really helped to calm the nerves. When you’re able to score so early, so often, that helps knowing you can roll off that momentum.”

Anderson’s goal was the first of the season nearly eight minutes in; Rogge’s was her first since March 1, 2019; and Klein began a special-teams clinic for UMD by scoring shorthanded on a solo breakaway with under four minutes to go in the first.

Three of the Bulldogs’ five goals came on special teams Friday as UMD finished 2-for-7 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the penalty kill.

Senior defenseman and captain Ashton Bell and freshman wing Clara Van Wieren scored the power-play goals. Bell — who had a goal and two assists to lead all scorers — buried a feed from Klein off a faceoff win by junior center Gabbie Hughes with a minute to go in the second. Hughes then set up Van Wieren for her first collegiate goal early the third.

“I thought our puck movement was really good right from the get-go, just picking our spots on when to shoot and finding those rebounds,” Crowell said of the power play. “I thought we got great momentum off of those opportunities.”

Friday’s game was the first outside competition for a UMD athletics team since college sports was shut down during the second week of March at the start of a pandemic now in its ninth month. It was also the first WCHA women’s hockey game played since Ohio State defeated Wisconsin for the WCHA Final Faceoff championship on March 8.

The showdown between the Bulldogs and Mavericks was to be one of two women’s WCHA games played Friday to start the 2020-21 season, however, this weekend’s series between Bemidji State and St. Cloud State in St. Cloud was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Huskies’ program.

Out east, three other series got underway Friday, the first day of competition for any NCAA Division I women’s hockey programs since March 8. Boston College beat New Hampshire, Maine topped Holy Cross and Colgate edged Syracuse in overtime. Meanwhile, two series were postponed — Vermont at UConn and Merrimack at Providence — due to COVID-19, like the Huskies-Beavers series.

“Our team talks a lot about being grateful. We’ve seen a lot of teams canceling and the fact that we got to go out there today was awesome,” Anderson said. “We were all sitting in the locker room looking at each other saying, ‘Our heart rates are insane right now.’ We were so excited to finally get out there. The first period we got the jitters out of the way and then we were just going.”

Minnesota Duluth freshman wing Clara Van Wieren, who scored her first collegiate goal on Friday in her Bulldogs debut, protects the puck from Minnesota State's Sydney Langseth during a 5-0 win for UMD in its season-opener in Mankato. Photo courtesy of Minnesota State-Mankato University and Mansoor Ahmad/MSU Reporter
Minnesota Duluth freshman wing Clara Van Wieren, who scored her first collegiate goal on Friday in her Bulldogs debut, protects the puck from Minnesota State's Sydney Langseth during a 5-0 win for UMD in its season-opener in Mankato. Photo courtesy of Minnesota State-Mankato University and Mansoor Ahmad/MSU Reporter

Minnesota Duluth 3-1-1—5

Minnesota State 0-0-0—0

First period — 1. UMD, Taylor Anderson 1 (Kasundra Betinol), 7:51; 2. UMD, Naomi Rogge 1 (Ashton Bell), 12:02; 3. UMD, Anna Klein 1, 16:14 (sh).

Second period — 4. UMD, Bell 1 (Klein, Gabbie Hughes), 19:00 (pp).

Third period — 5. UMD, Clara Van Wieren 1 (Hughes, Bell), 6:20 (pp).

Saves — Emma Soderberg, UMD, 8-6-8—22; Calla Frank, MSU, 5-15-8—29.

Power play — UMD 2-7; MSU 0-6. Penalties — UMD 6-12; MSU 7-14.