All season long University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey coach Maura Crowell has talked about how well her famously offensive center Gabbie Hughes has focused on defense this season. Saturday afternoon, when the No. 7 Bulldogs needed it most, Hughes delivered defensively before reawakening UMD's offense.
Hughes ignited a Bulldog squad that overcame Minnesota State University, Mankato 2-1 at AMSOIL Area in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game of high-stakes. The win pushes UMD to an 9-4 overall record and keeps the Bulldogs in the hunt for a league title.
The Mavericks stunned UMD early in the first period when Jamie Nelson walked in the right circle and beat Bulldog netminder Emma Soderberg at 5:48. Unfortunately for MSU, that would be the only goal UMD would allow -- no team has scored two goals on the Bulldogs since the month of November.
After trailing for more than 50 minutes, it was Hughes that tracked back into the neutral zone and stripped a MSU player of the puck after picking up her stick just short of the redline. From there, Hughes skated down the middle of the ice, past three Maverick players and literally split two of them in the high slot. Diving, Hughes managed to roof the puck up and over MSU goaltender Calla Frank to draw the Bulldogs even at 1-1 with the Mavericks at the 10:53 mark.
"No pucks were bouncing in our direction and so it had to come down to effort and grit and want," said Hughes when asked about her goal after the game. "When I saw that I could catch that player and picked her pocket, I turned around and saw guys that I had in front of me and took that to my advantage. I was just determined to at least get the puck to the net."
Less than five minutes later, UMD took its first -- and final -- lead of the game. After junior defenseman Maggie Flaherty skated the puck into the left corner, McKenzie Hewett bee-lined off the shift change. Flaherty found Hewett on the doorstep for the game-winning goal at 15:08, the junior forward's third goal of the season and third in the last three skates,
Soderberg turned in a healthy 21 saves in the triumph, while Frank had 32 for MSU, who falls to 7-11-1 on the season.
The second place Bulldogs will try for a series sweep tomorrow afternoon at AMSOIL. The game is scheduled to get underway at 3:07 p.m.
BULLDOG NOTES: UMD is holding its opponents to just 1.00 goals per game -- the fewest in the WCHA and second-fewest in the NCAA ... Emma Soderberg continues to rank second in the NCAA and first in the WCHA with a goals against average of 0.95 and a saves percentage of .962.