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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Three Stars: Bulldogs pick up important wins, but also left wanting more from splits

Seniors Gabbie Hughes, Kobe Roth and Jesse Jacques put up big points in Bulldogs wins, however, both programs would have liked to go into the holiday break off sweeps against key league opponents.

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Minnesota Duluth’s Noah Cates (21) moves the puck up the ice in front of Denver’s Mike Benning (20) in the first period of the Bulldogs’ 5-0 loss to Denver at Amsoil Arena on Friday evening, Dec. 10, 2021. Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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In their final series before final exams and a holiday break, the Minnesota Duluth men’s and women’s hockey teams split over the weekend in conference play.

The Bulldogs men, ranked No. 6 in the country at the break , split an NCHC series with Denver at Amsoil Arena, losing 5-0 on Friday before rebounding for a 6-2 victory over the Pioneers on Saturday . UMD sits fourth in the NCHC, 10 points back of league-leading North Dakota, which has played two more conference games.

The UMD women, who are at No. 8 nationally , split with Minnesota in WCHA play at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, winning 3-2 on Friday during a snowstorm before falling 2-1 on Saturday to the Golden Gophers. UMD is 16 points out of first place in the WCHA — Wisconsin and Ohio State, who have played two more league games, are tied for first — and six back of third-place Minnesota.

Here’s a look back at last weekend’s Bulldogs hockey action via the Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down and Three Stars by hockey reporter Matt Wellens.

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Thumbs up to Saturday’s win over Denver

After losing three straight games and giving up five goals in each of those defeats, the Bulldogs men’s hockey players held a team meeting on Friday night at Amsoil Arena — one long enough that they weren’t available to speak with a reporter after the game.

The result of that meeting was an awakening on Saturday, starting with three goals in the first period. UMD finished strong as well, scoring three more in the third, to defeat the Pioneers and avoid what would have been a miserable two-week holiday break.

“We were on our toes right away,” senior center Jesse Jacques said. “(Coach Scott) Sandelin was preaching that all day yesterday and today. We came out, worked hard and did everything we could.”

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Minnesota Duluth forward Jesse Jacques (18) controls the puck against North Dakota on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Jacques, the Hermantown native who has been bouncing up and down the lineup all season, scored his first goals since the Ice Breaker Tournament two months ago at Amsoil Arena. Fifth-year senior wing Kobe Roth also netted a pair after being held off the scoresheet in four straight games.

Jacques' first goal came just 1:57 into the game. Roth and Jacques both said it was a huge goal that created a wave of momentum that led to the power-play goal by senior captain Noah Cates at 5:04 and Roth’s backhander on the breakaway at 13:04.

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“That was awesome. That was our game plan, to try and get that first goal, “ Roth said. “We’ve been chasing here lately, so huge for him to get that first one. That really got us going after not scoring last night.”

Added Jacques: “It was just a sigh of relief, especially since it happened right away. You get the guys going, you get the energy going. It’s just a snowball effect after that.”

Jacques first goal highlight
Roth and Jacques also scored in the third when the Bulldogs slammed the door on Denver’s attempt to stay with the game. The Pioneers pulled within two goals in the second, and then in the opening minutes of the third, kept it a two-goal game by scoring 16 seconds after a goal by sophomore wing Blake Biondi at 1:19 of the third.

Jacques put UMD back up by three 3:46 into the third and Roth added an empty-net goal at 16:32. In between, the Bulldogs had to kill off back-to-back Denver power plays, with the delay on the second call creating a brief 6-on-4 disadvantage.

Junior goaltender Ryan Fanti made four saves on those penalty kills, 10 saves total in the third and 29 overall on 31 shots.

“I thought our penalty killers and Fanti did a great job (Saturday). Fanti was back, he made some big saves for us,” Sandelin said. “You got to play good against good teams and I thought our guys had a great response. It’s a great way to go into break playing a good game and beating a good hockey team.”

Thumbs down to Friday’s loss to Denver

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Minnesota Duluth’s Tanner Laderoute (13) passes the puck out of the corner past Denver’s Justin Lee (32) in the first period of the Bulldogs’ 5-0 loss to Denver at Amsoil Arena on Friday evening, Dec. 10, 2021. Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

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After getting swept by Northern Michigan on Dec. 3-4 in Marquette via 5-4 and 5-2 losses, Cates was blunt in saying the UMD men’s team was “humbled” by the Wildcats .

That begged the question on Friday following the 5-0 loss to Denver — at least from this reporter, the only one who showed up to UMD’s postgame press conference that night — “if last weekend was humbling, what was Friday night’s 5-0 loss?”

I never got to ask that, of course, because the Bulldogs wisely decided to hold a lengthy team meeting Friday. That was without a doubt a better use of their time than talking to a lone reporter, however, it was a meeting that probably should have happened days earlier, maybe even on the 253-mile overnight drive from Marquette to Duluth.

What we saw Saturday is what I expected from the Bulldogs on Friday. Instead, the Bulldogs were outshot 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes and down 2-0 at the first intermission. By the second intermission, the game was over thanks to three more Pioneer goals.

“Let's not look for bright spots right now,” Sandelin responded after I asked if there was anything positive to take from the game. “There wasn't a lot of them. I mean, our killers did a good job, right? Give them credit. That was about the only thing. We weren't good at any facet, any facet.”

Thumbs down to not sweeping the Gophers

After scoring a trio of third-period goals Friday to beat Minnesota 3-2 at Ridder Arena on Friday in Minneapolis, the UMD women’s team had a shot to sweep the series with the Gophers and take three out of four games in the regular season series.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they didn’t put together a strong enough opening period after their first couple of shifts. The Gophers scored 4:10 and 11:00 into the game, forcing UMD to chase the rest of the game.

“A couple good shifts, but then they started hemming us in our (defensive) zone,” head coach Maura Crowell said. “I think we gave them too much time and space and sort of sat back on our heels. That’s what happens when you do that. Those two goals they got in the first were unfortunate.”

UMD was outshot 17-6 in the first period, but bounced back for a strong second and third. Freshman forward Gabby Krause scored in the second to pull UMD within one as shots were 19-18 in favor of UMD over the final 40 minutes.

“I liked the way we played for the last 40,” Crowell said. “I feel like if we had another minute, I think we would have gotten that tying goal.”

Seniors Gabbie Hughes, Naomi Rogge and Elizabeth Giguere scored for UMD in the third on Friday to rally the team from a 1-0 second-period deficit. Giguere’s game-winner came 42 seconds after the Gophers’ Amy Potomak had tied the game with 8:53 to play.

Of UMD’s previous three series against the WCHA’s top three — Wisconsin, Ohio State and Minnesota — Crowell said this was her program’s most complete weekend.

When UMD first met the Gophers Oct. 8-9 at Amsoil Arena, UMD didn’t play well in the 3-1 loss, but put it all together the next night in the 5-4 overtime win. The same thing happened Oct. 15 and 17 against Wisconsin. UMD struggled on Friday in the 3-0 loss and then played “really well” in the 5-4 OT loss in Game 2.

“Should have gotten a win there,” Crowell said of Game 2 against Wisconsin. “That one stings.”

Two weeks ago at home against Ohio State, UMD rolled in the opener 5-2, but couldn’t finish in the series finale, which was a 6-3 loss to the Buckeyes.

UMD put together two good games against the Gophers, which is a positive. The negative is they still only got one win.

“I feel like we could have gotten two (wins),” Crowell said. “It tells everybody … that we are one of the top teams in the country. It's there and I'm excited about the second half. I'm glad we don't have a very long break, because I think our team is coming together and playing really good hockey.”

Three Stars

3. UMD senior wing Kobe Roth: Roth scored a pair of goals Saturday for UMD in the win over Denver, including a beautiful backhander to finish an attack in the first that gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.

“He was good. He needed that,” Sandelin said. “He’s played well for us. We want a little bit more. Tonight I thought we got that. It was great to see him rewarded with a couple goals.”

Roth goal highlight

2. UMD senior center Gabbie Hughes: Hughes posted a goal and an assist on Friday’s 3-2 win at Minnesota to extend her scoring streak to 10 games. The streak — which included six goals and 16 assists — was snapped Saturday as she was kept off the scoresheet for just the second time in 16 games this season.

1. UMD senior center Jesse Jacques: Jacques scored two important goals for the Bulldogs on Saturday to double his point total and get UMD a big win heading into the break, but that’s not all he did in that game, according to his linemate.

“When he’s going, it really makes our lineup complete,” Roth said. “I was proud of him. It was a big game. He used his body well, finished when he could. I thought he played one of his best games of the year.”

Jacques second goal highlight

Up next

Both Bulldogs hockey programs are off for two weeks as players take final exams and celebrate Christmas. They both return New Year’s weekend.

The Bulldogs women travel to Harvard — where coaches Crowell and Laura Bellamy coached prior to UMD — for their final nonconference series of the season. Puck drop is 1 p.m. CT on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The UMD men play a home-and-home series against Minnesota State scheduled for 7:07 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30 in Mankato and at 6:07 p.m. on New Year’s Day at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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