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UMD hockey notebook: Rooney, Brodt return from Team USA to lead Bulldogs into key WCHA series with Buckeyes

Last week Bulldogs seniors Maddie Rooney and Sydney Brodt were with the U.S. Women's National Team in Pittsburgh. Now they're back with the Bulldogs heading to Columbus to take on Ohio State in a top 10 battle.

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Minnesota Duluth senior co-captain Sydney Brodt celebrates after scoring a goal during against Minnesota State-Mankato on Oct. 11 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
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While most of Minnesota Duluth — and the WCHA for that matter — took last week off, Bulldogs seniors Maddie Rooney and Sydney Brodt continued to grind it out on the ice with the U.S. Women’s National Team in Pittsburgh.

Brodt said the week-long training camp, which included a pair of exhibitions against Canada, reinvigorated her just in time for the Bulldogs final four weeks of 2019, which include key WCHA series with Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin, plus a tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend at Quinnipiac.

“Every time I go, I learn a ton and I feel like I get better,” Brodt said. “The pace was super fast and it really was a good couple of battles. It was nice to play on the off weekend.

“It was nice and kept me in shape.”

Last week’s training camp served as a replacement event for the U.S. and Canada after the 2019 Four Nations Cup in Sweden was cancelled due to the now-resolved boycott by the Swedish women’s national team.

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Both the U.S. and Canadian women’s national teams practiced — separately — at the Pittsburgh Penguins UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex before playing exhibitions on Friday and Sunday. Canada won both, 4-1 and 5-3, with Rooney making 19 saves on 23 shots in the 4-1 loss on Friday.

“We came out flat, we know we came out flat,” said Rooney, a member of the senior women’s national team since 2017. “It was a great learning experience as a team and maybe a little wake up call. We’re going to go back to our respective homes and make sure we’re doing all the work to beat them in December.”

The U.S. and Canada begin their five-game 2019-20 Rivalry Series on Dec. 14 in Hartford, Conn., then shift to Moncton, New Brunswick, on Dec. 17. The series concludes Feb. 3-8 in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, and in Anaheim, Calif.

Rosters have yet to be announced for the series. Rooney and Brodt would be available to play in the December games, but would have to miss time with the Bulldogs to take part in the February contests.

“Whenever we get to those camps, we’re fortunate to be together,” Rooney said. “We’re all battling and challenging ourselves. It was a great environment to play in.”

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Minnesota Duluth senior goaltender Maddie Rooney makes a save during the second period against St. Cloud State on Nov. 1 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. The Bulldogs swept the Huskies in the WCHA series, winning 3-2 on Friday and 6-0 on Saturday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Buckeyes up next

The Bulldogs first three conference series of 2019-20 were against the three teams they finished ahead of in the WCHA standings — Bemidji State, Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State.

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Now UMD — which swept the Mavericks and Huskies at home but lost twice in Bemidji — caps the 2019 portion of its conference schedule against the three teams it finished the year looking up at: the Gophers, Badgers and Buckeyes. OSU hosts UMD this week at 5:07 p.m. Friday and 2:07 p.m. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

“We’re chasing them again,” Rooney said of the Buckeyes, who sit second in the WCHA and seventh in the latest USCHO.com poll. UMD is fourth in the WCHA, 10th nationally.

“It’ll be good to pull out two wins against them," Rooney said. "That will be huge. We always get up to play them. They’re a competitive team and we always like to match that.”

Brodt, the Bulldogs’ third-year captain, said the Buckeyes are one of her favorite teams to play because OSU’s style of play is similar to UMD’s. Both teams like to get up and down the ice and create scoring opportunities off odd-man rushes.

There is also a physical nature to these games. The Buckeyes forecheck hard, Brodt said.

Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said that physicality comes from the Buckeyes’ fourth-year coach, Nadine Muzerall.

“I know Nadine from our high school days, we actually played against each other, and she played like her team plays,” Crowell said. “She was mean, physical, tough. That's how her team plays.

“She's got a bite to her, and so does Ohio State, along with the skill. We're similar to that where we have that skill, but we we play a tough brand of hockey too and that's what makes it really fun.”

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UMD off to historic start

The 7-3 record UMD brings into Columbus this weekend is the program’s best after 10 games since 2010-11 when the Bulldogs started 8-2. They finished 18-7-3 and reached the NCAA quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs’ second-best start this decade was Crowell’s second season at UMD in 2016-17. The team started 6-2-2 en route to finishing 19-5-4 with an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Like 2016-17, the Bulldogs have a veteran squad returning, which helps with hot starts, Crowell said.

But that record could be much better, Crowell said.

“I think 9-1, actually, could have been a possibility,” Crowell said. “You learn from your mistakes, you learn from being swept on the road at Bemidji (State) that we need to be better. We've talked about it and I think our bounce back from that weekend has been fantastic. That's something that maybe we wouldn't have seen a year ago or maybe two years ago. I'm encouraged by that.”

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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