Amsoil Arena hosted six games in three days over the weekend as the Minnesota Duluth men went 1-1 at the Ice Breaker Tournament against Michigan and Providence while the Bulldogs women lost twice to Wisconsin in WCHA play.

The UMD men fell 5-1 to Michigan on Friday before rebounding for a 3-2 win over Providence in the Ice Breaker consolation game on Saturday night. The Wolverines topped Minnesota State 3-2 in the Ice Breaker championship game on Saturday afternoon.

The UMD women dropped to 2-4 on the season following a 3-0 loss on Friday afternoon and 5-4 overtime loss on Sunday afternoon to the Badgers. They finish with just three WCHA points in four games at home against Wisconsin and Minnesota over the last two weekends.

Here’s a look back at last weekend’s Bulldogs hockey action, with the thumbs up, thumbs down and three stars for News Tribune and The Rink Live UMD hockey reporter Matt Wellens.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Thumbs up

Cates finds redemption at Ice Breaker

Freshman center Dominic James on Saturday called his captain, senior wing Noah Cates, the Bulldogs’ best player, if not one of the best players in the country.

“When he's in our lineup, we’re a different beast,” James said.

That was evident last weekend at the Ice Breaker, specifically against the Wolverines. UMD dominated the opening 15 minutes against Michigan with a 13-5 shots on goal advantage and 1-0 lead.

Then the game turned following a contact to the head major and game misconduct on Cates, who was ejected for throwing a retaliatory elbow at Michigan senior defenseman Nick Blankenburgh following a collision between the two behind the net — in which Blankenburg caught Cates with an uncalled elbow — after a battle for position in front. Blankenburg also gave Cates a couple shoves, including a hard one into the boards, before Cates threw his elbow.

Michigan outshot UMD 24-16 from that point on, and scored five unanswered goals for the win.

Cates owned up to his mistake Saturday, admitting he felt bad about the penalty, and what it did to his teammates.

“I felt like I put us very shorthanded, not only for five minutes, but for two periods without another forward (on Friday),” Cates said Saturday. “I definitely owed the guys. They battled for me Friday.”

Cates paid his teammates back Saturday with a game-winning, wrap-around goal with 3:20 to play in regulation, giving UMD the 3-2 win over Providence. It was a clutch goal and exactly how you want to see your captain respond after losing his cool and taking a costly penalty the night before.

“That was a big-time goal. He showed great poise. Those wrap arounds are not easy,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “Getting him back, listen, he’s arguably our best player, he’s our captain, he’s our leader. It was tough to lose him (Friday) night, but he was ready to go (Saturday). It paid big dividends with a big goal and solid play.”

Thumbs down

Masking needs to improve at Amsoil Arena

A full student section cheers after a Minnesota Duluth goal against Bemidji State during the second period on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
A full student section cheers after a Minnesota Duluth goal against Bemidji State during the second period on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

To quote John Goodman’s character, Walter Sobczak, from the 1998 Coen Brothers classic “The Big Lebowski,” “This is not ‘Nam … There are rules.”

And the rules at Amsoil Arena this season state masks must be worn at all times, unless you are eating or drinking. Unfortunately, a lot of fans at men’s hockey games have been ignoring those rules early on.

Based on my trips around the arena and scans of the stands, masking was notably better this weekend for the Ice Breaker Tournament compared to a week ago against Bemidji State — and there were a lot more masked fans both weekends in Duluth than at Sanford Center in Bemidji back on Oct. 8 — but a significant amount of spectators are continuing to flout the rules put in place, especially in the student section.

This week, UMD and Amsoil Arena made masks available at the entrances and stepped up its messaging throughout the arena. It probably needs to continue to increase the messaging with larger signage and more messages on the video board — maybe a PSA from the coach, who if you haven’t noticed, is wearing his mask — as well.

In an ideal world, fans who break the rules would be ejected from the arena. Repeat offenders would be banned, however, staffing issues at Amsoil Arena make this a tough task this season.

So here I am with some good old fashion Minnesota passive-aggressive shaming.

Please wear a mask, if it’s not too much trouble. It’d be a shame if a COVID-19 outbreak linked to Bulldogs hockey games resulted in fans being banned from the rink again, but there is always My9!

Thumbs up

Bulldogs’ ‘Big Three’ shine vs. Wisconsin

Gabbie Hughes (17) of Minnesota Duluth and Nicole LaMantia (21) of Wisconsin reach for the puck during the second period on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Gabbie Hughes (17) of Minnesota Duluth and Nicole LaMantia (21) of Wisconsin reach for the puck during the second period on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, Minn. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The UMD women’s team once again found itself in an epic back-and-forth battle with Wisconsin on Sunday at Amsoil Arena, and the “Big Three” on the Bulldogs’ top line were a big reason why.

Fifth-year senior wing Anna Klein scored two goals in the first period to put UMD on top 2-0 while Elizabeth Giguere, also a fifth-year senior, tied the game twice in the third period to force overtime. True-senior center Gabbie Hughes assisted on all four goals.

“They really put the team on their backs today,” Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said Sunday. “All four goals were scored by that line and so I can't ask much more out of them.”

Hughes was in beast mode against the Badgers, winning puck battle after puck battle along the boards and down low. She made sure her line spent minimal time in the UMD zone defending on Sunday, and more time attacking the Badgers’ net.

Crowell said Hughes is a gritty, tough, hard-nosed defensive-style center, who plays with two smart wingers in Klein and Giguere.

As smart as those wingers are, they can’t explain how Hughes routinely emerges with the puck from battles.

“Every time Gabbie has the puck down low, I know it’s going to come out somehow. I don’t know how she does it, but I know it’s going to come out,” Giguere said. “Sometime people are just so talented. She’s such a talented player that the puck just sticks to her. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Three Stars

3. UMD senior center Jesse Jacques — The Hermantown native led the Bulldogs in goals at the Ice Breaker Tournament, scoring against both Michigan and Providence, They were his first two goals of the season.

2. UMD junior wing Quinn Olson — The Boston Bruins prospect made a ridiculous no-look, between-the-legs pass to set up freshman center Dominic James for his first college goal. It came after a sly spin to evade a Friars defender who was sprawled out for a block.

1. UMD senior wing Noah Cates — People make mistakes, and Cates admitted he made a bad one Friday by getting ejected. But he responded well with an impressive wrap-around goal to win the game Saturday.

Up Next

After taking on No. 3 Michigan and No. 10 Providence a week ago, the fifth-ranked Bulldogs men’s team has a home-and-home series with the fourth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend. Friday’s game is at 7 p.m. at 3M Arena at Mariucci in Minneapolis while Saturday’s rematch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

The UMD women, now sitting eighth in the USCHO.com poll, are on the road this weekend for their first trip to the 1,000-seat St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, Minnesota to take on the Tommies in WCHA play.