Blowouts can be fun, and Minnesota Duluth admittedly had a blast in their season-opening 5-0 and 7-3 wins over Minnesota State-Mankato back in November in Mankato.
But with the postseason now only two weeks away, a little more adversity — during a season packed with it — was deemed appropriate Saturday, and the Bulldogs encountered just that in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Mavericks in WCHA play at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Junior centers Gabbie Hughes and McKenzie Hewett scored 4:15 apart in the latter half of the third period to rally the Bulldogs from a 1-0 first-period deficit, while junior goaltender Emma Soderberg held strong over the final 86 seconds during a 5-on-4 disadvantage to finish with 21 saves.
“Being able to come from behind shows a lot of grit and a lot of want in our team,” Hughes said. “That's something that we have focused on and we take a lot of pride in. That's exactly what we showed tonight and we're not afraid when we're down. We want to come back and we want to win these games. Having to come back late in the game gives us a good opportunity to see what will come in the future and get us ready for playoffs.”
The Bulldogs came into this weekend’s series against the Mavericks — which wraps at 3:07 p.m. Sunday back at Amsoil — following a 21-day layoff after positive COVID-19 test results within the Mavericks program canceled last week’s series in Mankato. The week before that, UMD had a bye.
Passes were missing their mark, and an own-zone turnover just under six minutes into the game resulted in an unassisted snipe by Mavericks freshman wing Jamie Nelson to put UMD down 1-0.
“The first period was obviously sluggish,” UMD coach Maura Crowell said. “Probably noticed the 21-day layoff in our legs and more in our thinking. Pucks were bouncing all over the place but we got better in the second period and continued to build.”
- Photos: Minnesota Duluth women's hockey vs. Minnesota State on Saturday, Feb. 20
The game-winning goal came from Hewett with 4:52 remaining in regulation. Hewett came on from a line change and charged straight to the far side of the net, where she tapped in a pass by junior defenseman Maggie Flaherty.
Hewett said the voice of assistant coach Ashleigh Brykaliuk was in her head the entire shift.
“We’ve been working on having our stick down all practice, so I just went hard to the net and Maggie made a beautiful pass right on my stick and it went in,” Hewett said. “Credit to Maddie on that one.”
Hughes tied the game unassisted at the 10:53 mark of the third via a highlight-reel goal that started with a steal in the neutral zone. From there she muscled her way down the center of the ice through three Mavericks and put the puck past Mavericks sophomore goaltender Calla Frank while falling to the ice.
“That period my line was working them and just no pucks were bouncing our direction,” Hughes said of the third. “It had to come down to effort and grit and want, so when I saw that I could catch that girl and picked her pocket, I saw the ice I had in front of me and took that to my advantage. I was just determined to get the puck to the net.”
Fighting through sticks and bodies, Crowell called it the “quintessential” Gabbie Hughes goal.
“She’s going down Broadway and there are three or four people on her and she wills the puck into the back of the net,” Crowell said. “That’s the player we want with the puck on her stick at that point of the game.”
With the win, the Bulldogs remain alive in the chase for the WCHA regular season title. They must beat the Mavericks again on Sunday and then sweep first-place Wisconsin next weekend at Amsoil Arena.
UMD wore 1950s men’s hockey throwback uniforms on Saturday at Amsoil Arena and will do so again next Friday against the Badgers. The game-worn jerseys and socks are being auctioned off at umdbulldogs.com/auctions.
Junior forward Kylie Hanley is out this weekend with a lower body injury. Freshman forward Brieja Parent of Forest Lake takes Hanley’s spot in the lineup. Saturday was just Parent's fourth game this year.
Minnesota State 1-0-0—1
Minnesota Duluth 0-0-2—2
1. MSU, Jamie Nelson 7, 5:48.
Saves — Calla Frank, MSU, 9-13-10—32; Emma Soderberg, UMD, 7-10-4—21.
Power play — MSU 0-0; UMD 0-2. Penalties — MSU 3-6; UMD 1-2.