Minnesota Duluth junior goaltender Emma Soderberg made 34 saves Friday to pick up her third shutout in seven games this season as the sixth-ranked Bulldogs returned from a lengthy layoff to take down third-ranked Ohio State 2-0 at Amsoil Arena.
Friday was the Bulldogs' first game in 41 days after their last series of 2020 — a trip to Wisconsin Dec. 11-12 — and first series of 2021 — a trip to Minnesota Jan. 4-5 — were both called off due to COVID-19 protocols.
“That’s a great quality win right there against a really good Ohio State team,” said Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell, is now 10-1 against the Buckeyes at Amsoil Arena with 10 straight wins. “I said to the team, ‘It wasn’t easy by any means.’
“They’re tough, they’re physical and they keep coming at you wave after wave after wave. (Soderberg), our goalies, played tremendously well. She makes everything look like it’s no big deal. She’s really calm back there.”
Friday was also the first time in 314 days spectators were allowed inside Amsoil Arena to watch a Bulldogs women’s or men’s hockey game, with the last such game being the men’s regular season finale against St. Cloud State on March 7, 2020.
Duluth mayor Emily Larson dropped a ceremonial puck before a group of 75 masked, socially-distanced invited guests — family and friends of the Bulldogs and Buckeyes — who received nontransferable weekend passes to what coach Maura Crowell called a “soft opening” at Amsoil.
The 75 invitees on Friday are the same invitees who have passes for the rematch between the Bulldogs and Buckeyes at 3:07 p.m. Saturday in Duluth.
“It’s really fun, it’s fun to see your parents up there,” said UMD senior wing Anna Klein. “My dad was up there barking during the opening. You can’t get any better than that. It’s a little embarrassing but you got to love it. The parents love coming here and they were so excited. They were probably 10 times more excited than us.”
Klein had the Bulldogs’ lone goal of the night up until the final 53.9 seconds of the game, when junior wing Taylor Anderson scored on an empty Buckeyes net. That goal came about 18 seconds after UMD killed off a late OSU power play.
Klein’s goal, her team-leading seventh of the year, came just shy of the 12-minute mark of the first period and the assistant captain won a race to a loose puck in the neutral zone, muscling her way past Buckeyes’ junior defenseman Sophie Jaques to create a clean lane to the net. Klein sniped her shot high, glove-side, for her team-best 12th point of the season.
“I just wanted to beat her to the puck, win the race,” Klein said. “She kind of got a stick on me, so I had to kick it up to my feet, but I played soccer in high school so I guess some things pay off.
“It was a long shift so to ended it out with a goal, after being in the D-zone for a while is kind of a good change of momentum too.”
The Bulldogs spent a significant amount of time in the defensive zone Friday as the Buckeyes — the league leaders averaging 39.6 shots on goal per game this year — came at UMD as Crowell described: “wave after wave after wave.”
Soderberg said her teammates did a solid job in front of her keeping shots to the outside and blocking shots. When a shot did reach the UMD net, the native of Jarved, Sweden said her teammates were there to pick the OSU sticks and allow her to cover the puck.
“They didn’t have a lot of (Grade)-A chances in the slot, which is very helpful,” Soderberg said of the Buckeyes. “Our team throws their body in front of the puck all the time, which also helps a lot.”
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The 34 saves Friday tied a season and career-high for Soderberg, who also made that many in a 4-2 loss on Nov. 27 against Minnesota at Amsoil Arena and during one of her four appearances last year as a sophomore while backing up Maddie Rooney.
Soderberg has started all seven of the Bulldogs games this season, and now enters Saturday’s contest with a .953 save percentage (third in the WCHA) and 1.21 goals against average (second).
“She frickin' killed it tonight,” Klein said. “It was like a brick wall back there. That gives us so much momentum.”
Former Bulldogs captain Zoe Hickel is making her return to Amsoil Arena this weekend as a first-year assistant coach for the Buckeyes. Hickel played at UMD from 2011-15, serving as an assistant captain as a junior in 2013-14 and captain in 2014-15. She posted 46 goals and 47 assists in 138 games at UMD, including 19 goals and 13 assists as a senior when she was a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.
The Bulldogs were without four freshmen on Friday — forwards Brieja Parent and Clara Van Wieren, defenseman Nina Jobst-Smith, and goaltender Jojo Chobak. During her press conference on Wednesday, Crowell said the team would be without its full roster due to contact tracing. The UMD men’s hockey team went into quarantine this week after a positive COVID-19 rest result.
Ohio State 0-0-0—0
Minnesota Duluth 1-0-1—2
2. UMD, Taylor Anderson 2 (Hughes), 19:06
Saves — Andrea Braendli, OSU, 9-6-5—20; Emma Soderberg, UMD, 14-11-9—34.
Power play — OSU 0-3; UMD 0-4; Penalties — OSU 4-8; UMD 3-6.