UMD women’s hockey playing its best of the season

 UMD Head Coach Maura Crowell said her team has been able to rise to the occasion against its toughest competition this season. Photo by Alex Ganeev.

UMD Head Coach Maura Crowell said her team has been able to rise to the occasion against its toughest competition this season. Photo by Alex Ganeev.

With a record of 12-13-2, the UMD women’s hockey team is going through an up and down season, but the team is currently playing some of its best hockey with a 3-1-1 record in its last five games. The Bulldogs recently played in the first NCAA D-1 outdoor hockey game in the 12-year history of Hockey Day Minnesota, a 1-1 tie with St. Cloud State.

UMD Head Coach Maura Crowell was excited about the opportunity for her team to play outdoors in front of a large television audience.

“[The players] had smiles on their faces and were loving every moment of it so it was a really unique and special moment for our team,” Crowell said. “It’s important to note what that meant for women’s hockey to be a part of Hockey Day Minnesota and be on TV, that hasn’t happened before, bringing our sport to a much larger audience and putting on a great product.”

Eleven current members of the UMD women’s hockey team come from Minnesota and grew up watching Hockey Day Minnesota and playing at outdoor rinks. Crowell said that she reminded her players about growing up playing outdoor hockey as children, and the team responded by firing 44 shots and dominating puck possession.

“I think that’s what brought the smiles out of the kids, just all of them being able to grow up playing on outdoor rinks,” Crowell said. “A lot of them talked about getting back to their roots and playing for the love of the game and that was our message all weekend, to go out and have fun, think about when you were a little girl and you were out on the outdoor rinks just playing for the pure love of it, and that’s what we tried to do last Saturday.”

Despite outshooting the Huskies 44-17 and controlling faceoffs and puck possession, the Bulldogs were only able to put up one goal during their Hockey Day Minnesota matchup against the Huskies. With difficult games against Ohio State and Wisconsin approaching, Crowell said that she had placed an emphasis on smart shot selection.

“Something we’ve been talking about is not to settle for outside shots,” Crowell said. “I think we could attack the middle of the ice a little more and get more traffic in front of the net so they can’t see as much, so shot selection could be improved, but coming off a loss on Friday night, to go out there on Saturday and fire 44 shots and dominate puck possession time, that was a rebound for us.”

UMD returned to indoor hockey at Amsoil Arena on Jan. 26 and 27 to sweep fifth-ranked Ohio State, outscoring the Buckeyes 6-2 in the two-game weekend series. The team has shown a knack for playing well against tough competition, beating fourth-ranked Colgate and tying seventh-ranked Minnesota on the road earlier in the season. Crowell said that the team’s underdog mentality has helped them play their best in the biggest games.

“I think we like to rise to the challenge, we have an underdog mentality this year,” Crowell said. “Some of our better games this season have been against better teams. I talked about getting more possessions, but when you play really good teams you’ve got to be tight defensively too, so those will be our focus areas, just playing better defense and making sure that when we get opportunities offensively, we’re getting grade A looks at the net.”

The Bulldogs will get a rematch with the Huskies at St. Cloud State on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 6:07 p.m. The Bulldogs carry a 2-1-1 record against the Huskies on the season, with both wins coming at Amsoil Arena.

SportsTyler Schendel