With WCHA 'very close' to announcing start date, Bulldogs ranked No. 8 in first preseason women's hockey poll of 2020-21

UMD one of four WCHA teams ranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine preseason poll released Tuesday. The league has 'identified the path' to possibly start playing games this month.

Anna Klein, second from left, is swarmed by her Minnesota Duluth teammates after she scored a goal during preseason practice in October at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. The Bulldogs will begin 2020-21 ranked No. 8 in the USA Today/USA Hockey preseason poll, which was released Tuesday. (Clint Austin/

NCAA Division I women’s hockey saw its first national preseason poll released on Tuesday, with Minnesota Duluth coming in at No. 8 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll .

The Bulldogs are one of four WCHA teams to be ranked in the poll with Wisconsin coming in at No. 1, Minnesota at No. 4 and Ohio State at No. 5. The Badgers claimed the top spot with nine first place votes while the Gophers garnered one.

Cornell — which won’t begin play until after Jan. 1 like the rest of the Ivy League schools — was second with seven first-place votes and Northeastern was third with two first-place votes.

No Division I women’s hockey league has released a 2020-21 schedule yet, though WCHA commissioner Jennifer Flowers told the News Tribune on Monday her league is “very optimistic” it will begin play this month and hopeful it can put out at least the first part of a schedule this week.


A rumored start date of Nov. 20 has been circulating, but Flowers said Monday nothing has been set yet, and even once it is, everything will carry a ‘subject to change’ asterisk due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We've made great progress, and really feel like we've identified the path with which we need to go down in order to play,” Flowers said. “We are close, I would say, very close to announcing a couple of things.”

UMD is coming off a season in which it went 18-12-6 overall and finished fourth in the WCHA at 11-8-5. The Bulldogs return their leading scorer from last season in junior forward Gabbie Hughes (20 goals, 31 assists in 35 games) and the WCHA’s top scoring defenseman in senior captain Ashton Bell (11 goals, 21 assists in 36 games). Redshirt junior Naomi Rogge, a top-three scorer in her first two seasons with 47 career points, also returns in 2020-21 after missing all of last year due to injury.

The biggest question for UMD comes in goal, where freshman Jojo Chobak, junior Emma Soderberg and senior Hanna Markel vie to replace the graduation of Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney.

The Badgers, at 28-5-3, were the WCHA regular season champions a year ago and the second seed behind Cornell (28-2-3) going into an NCAA tournament that was never played due to COVID-19. UMD was one of the last teams left out of the eight-team field.

UMD men third in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll

Ranked third in the preseason poll released last week , that’s also where the Bulldogs men landed in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Division I men’s hockey preseason poll released on Monday.

The top three of the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll mimicked the top three of USCHO’s with North Dakota at No. 1 and Boston College at No. 2. The top 10 of the two polls was almost identical, with just Minnesota State-Mankato and Denver flipped in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots.


Only Atlantic Hockey and the men’s WCHA have released 2020-21 schedules to this point, though more league schedules are expected this week possibly. The NCHC has announced a Dec. 1 start date for its eight teams in a pod in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Big Ten announced a Nov. 13 “or soon after” start date last month.

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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