Minnesota Duluth announced a four-year contract extension on Wednesday for women’s hockey coach Maura Crowell that will keep her with the Bulldogs through the 2025-26 season.

Crowell and the Bulldogs are coming off a 2020-21 season in which they navigated through the protocols of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic to finish second in the WCHA during the regular season and reach the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time since 2010.

"I would like to thank UMD athletic director Josh Berlo and UMD chancellor Lendley Black for their continued confidence in my leadership of this elite hockey program," Crowell said in the announcement. "Everyone in our program is proud to call themselves Bulldogs and represent UMD both in the WCHA and NCAA. It is an honor to develop our young women into strong students, athletes, and community members through the game of hockey. I am eager to build on our successful Frozen Four run this past season and bring more trophies to Amsoil Arena."

The Bulldogs were 87 seconds away from beating Wisconsin for the the WCHA regular season title at Amsoil Arena on the final day of the regular season and also a goal away from playing for a national championship this spring in Erie, Pennsylvania. After beating Colgate 1-0 in overtime in the NCAA quarterfinals, the Bulldogs were tripped up by Northeastern 3-2 in OT in the Frozen Four semifinals.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The Bulldogs are poised to make another run at WCHA and NCAA titles in 2021-22 with 19 of 23 players returning from the 2020-21 squad, plus the addition of senior graduate transfer and 2020 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner Elizabeth Giguere.

"We could not be more pleased to have Maura Crowell continue to lead our storied Bulldog women's hockey program," Berlo said in the announcement. "This extension furthers the incredible leadership and mentorship for Bulldog women's hockey by Coach Crowell and her staff. UMD women's hockey has reestablished itself as one of the top programs in the country as evidenced with this year's trip to the NCAA Frozen Four. She is a great leader, motivator, and mentor to the exceptional young women in our program. Off the ice, her team has excelled academically in the classroom."

Crowell, who was hired in 2015 to replace five-time national championship coach Shannon Miller, last signed an extension with UMD in August of 2017 following a 2016-17 season that saw UMD post a 25-7-5 record. That year also included an appearance in the WCHA postseason championship game and the NCAA tournament. The 2017 extension was set to expire after the 2021-22 season.

In six seasons at UMD, Crowell has compiled a 100-79-20 record with the two NCAA tournament appearances in 2017 and 2021. She was named the American Hockey Coaches Association Division I Women’s Coach of the Year in 2016-17 and the WCHA Coach of the Year at the end of that season as well.

The Minnesota Duluth coaching staff hugs after winning in overtime against Colgate during the NCAA Women's National Collegiate Ice Hockey Championship quarterfinal game on Monday, March 15, 2021, at Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)
The Minnesota Duluth coaching staff hugs after winning in overtime against Colgate during the NCAA Women's National Collegiate Ice Hockey Championship quarterfinal game on Monday, March 15, 2021, at Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)

Financial details of Crowell’s extension were not disclosed. She was scheduled to make an annual salary of $190,000 in 2021-22 after making $180,000 in 2020-21, per a copy of Crowell’s 2017 contract extension.

That deal also included cumulative bonuses for reaching the NCAA tournament ($2,500) and reaching the Frozen Four ($5,000). A bonus pool of $2,500 for reaching the NCAA tournament and $2,500 for reaching the Frozen Four is also available for Crowell’s assistant coaches as part of that deal.

Busy offseason for Crowell

In addition to negotiating a contract extension and successfully recruiting a graduate transfer with 200-plus career points in the NCAA, Crowell and her staff have been working with other NCAA Division I coaches to expand and reshape the NCAA women’s hockey tournament.

Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell watches the clock against Minnesota State-Mankato during the 2020 Minnesota Cup semifinals at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.  (Clint Austin / News Tribune)
Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell watches the clock against Minnesota State-Mankato during the 2020 Minnesota Cup semifinals at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. (Clint Austin / News Tribune)

The group is proposing the tournament be expanded from eight to 10 teams and also pushing for the same bracket integrity language currently written into the men’s seedings and pairings procedures.

The timing of the group’s expansion proposal coincides with the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance being on the verge of gaining an automatic NCAA tournament bid for its postseason champion starting in 2022-23.

NEWHA would be the sixth league to gain an automatic bid — meaning under the current eight-team format over half the field would be selected via auto bids — however, College Hockey America is now in danger of losing its auto bid following the 2022-23 season after Robert Morris announced the end of its men’s and women’s hockey programs last week.

Crowell said last week the end of RMU women’s hockey is heartbreaking, but it does not impact the sport’s push for NCAA tournament expansion.

“With us being so familiar with (North Dakota) dropping its program not that long ago, it feels equally devastating,” Crowell said. “We’re trying to push for more teams and frankly women’s hockey has done a really good job in the past several years adding teams.

“To take a step backwards here, it is devastating for our sport, because we are still small. It’s devastating for those players and staff members and I’m thinking about them every day.”