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UMD women's hockey notebook: Bulldogs' Hughes paying tribute to fallen friend this season

Bulldogs senior center Gabbie Hughes is sporting a sticker with the initials 'SW' and the number '6' in honor of a girl she used to coach during the summers. 'Sophie' died this summer by suicide, and Hughes say she's now playing for her.

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Minnesota Duluth forward Gabbie Hughes (17), shown on Feb, 21, 2021, after scoring the game-winning goal against Minnesota State last season at Amsoil Arena, is using this season to pay tribute to a fallen friend who died of suicide over the summer. (Tyler Schank / File / News Tribune)

Members of the Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey team put a lot of thought and care into their personal videos that appear on the scoreboard at Amsoil Arena when they are introduced as part of the starting lineup or when they register a point during the game.

This year’s clips, which are also shared on social media as GIFs, include Edina native Anna Klein eating a cake that eventually winds up in her face, Maggie Flaherty wearing the head of mascot Champ and Naomi Rogge with her cat .

Bulldogs senior center Gabbie Hughes — who last year put together a fun PSA reminding everyone to wash their hands and wear a mask — is using her clip this season to pay tribute to a fallen friend who died of suicide over the summer.

“Sophie” was a player Hughes had coached, and was from a family that had been part of her father Terry’s summer hockey program in the Twin Cities. Hughes will play with a sticker that includes Sophie’s initials, SW, and number, 6, on her stick all season. Hughes shows off that sticker in her clip, before pulling back and pointing toward the heavens.

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“I carry her sticker around with me everywhere and now I play for her,” Hughes said. “A lot of the things I do, I live for her, so that she can see the true beauties of the world. I can show her what it's like to play college hockey while she's looking down on me. My GIF is just showing her and letting people know that's why I do what I do and why. When I score, I'm doing it for her this year.”

Special teams off to mixed start

The Bulldogs power play got off to a good start to the 2021-22 season Friday in Mankato, striking twice on seven chances in a 7-0 win at Minnesota State. One of those two goals came 5-on-3. On Saturday, however, the penalty kill got beat for three goals on five kills in a 4-2 loss to the Mavericks, whose only other goal went into an empty net in the closing seconds.

Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell said she is not worried about the penalty kill’s struggles last Saturday, as some things worked in the Mavs’ favor that day. She is encouraged by the power play, and the way her veterans scorers are now able to mentally break down the opposition.

“We're getting to the point where we can read penalty kills a little bit better,” Crowell said. “Understanding what the kill is trying to do, allows you to make good decisions on the power play.”

UMD’s power play and penalty kill both ranked sixth out of seven teams in the WCHA last season. The power play went 4-for-54 (7.4%) while the penalty kill finished 42-for-50 (84%) — though it did score three shorthanded goals.

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Hughes, who helped set up Rogge on the first power play goal of the year, said the team could sense a different dynamic with the power play in practice this fall.

“Last year was a tough year for the power play. It was really fun once we finally put that first one in and got the power play running and rolling,” Hughes said. “The creative minds are allowed to be creative, and that’s how we roll and how we work. It was definitely something we talked about after the game, being excited to finally bang one in after not having a good power play last year.

Scouting the Gophers

Minnesota comes to Amsoil Arena this weekend still seeking its first win of the season following 4-2 and 4-1 losses to Ohio State last weekend in Minneapolis. It’s the first 0-2 start for the Gophers in program history.

Senior defenseman Emily Brown (two assists) and senior forward Taylor Heise (goal and assist) each had two points to lead the team in scoring. Senior Lauren Bench (22 saves on 25 shots Friday) and freshman Skylar Vetter (27 saves on 31 shots Saturday) out of Lakeville North split time in goal last week.

The Bulldogs and Gophers met in just one two-game series last season — a first for the two rivals — due to COVID-19 protocols cancelling a second-half meeting between the two schools in Minneapolis. Minnesota swept the Bulldogs 4-2 and 2-1 on Nov. 27-28 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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