UMD women's hockey: Bulldogs slotted fourth in preseason WCHA poll

UMD is coming off a second-place finish in the WCHA in 2020-21, as well as a run to the NCAA Frozen Four.

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Minnesota Duluth forward Gabbie Hughes (17) (center) reacts after scoring the game-winning goal on Minnesota State goaltender Calla Frank (77) (second from left) with three seconds left in the third period Sunday, Feb. 21, at Amsoil Arena. (Tyler Schank / File / News Tribune)

A season after nearly toppling Wisconsin at Amsoil Arena for the WCHA regular season title, Minnesota Duluth was slotted fourth in the WCHA preseason coaches poll released Thursday.

The two-time defending WCHA regular season champions and two-time defending NCAA champions picked up seven of eight first-place votes to garner the top spot, followed by WCHA postseason champion Ohio State, which received the other first-place vote. Coaches could not vote for their own team.

Minnesota was ranked third, followed by the Bulldogs, who were 87 seconds away from beating the Badgers on the final day of the 2020-21 regular season to claim the WCHA regular season outright . Daryl Watts scored 41 seconds into overtime at Amsoil Arena to give Wisconsin the Julianne Bye Cup.

Watts, a fifth-year senior, was named the preseason player of the year after finishing in the top three of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award voting a season ago. She is also the reigning WCHA Player of the Year.


Along with Watts, Bulldogs senior center Gabbie Hughes was named to the preseason all-conference team along with senior forward Sophie Shirley and fifth-year defenseman Grace Bowlby of Wisconsin, Minnesota fifth-year defenseman Emily Brown and Ohio State senior goaltender Andrea Braendli.

Notably absent from the preseason all-league team was 2020 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Elizabeth Giguere, a fifth-year forward who transferred to UMD this offseason after four seasons at Clarkson . Giguere, fifth-year forward Anna Klein and senior goaltender Emma Soderberg were among the Bulldogs to receive all-league votes.

The WCHA’s preseason rookie of the year honor was shared by a trio of freshmen — Minnesota forward Peyton Hemp and Wisconsin forwards Sara Wozniewicz and Marianne Picard — who received two votes each.

The WCHA’s 2021-22 season officially gets underway Sept. 24-25 when newcomer St. Thomas plays its first NCAA Division I games at Ohio State. The Bulldogs travel to Minnesota State-Mankato to play the Mavericks on Oct. 1-2.

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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