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2022 Women’s Frozen Four Preview: Minnesota Duluth

2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Ice Hockey Championship Photo by Justin Berl/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

#8 overall seed Minnesota Duluth takes on #3 seed Northeastern in the first Frozen Four semifinal on Friday at 3:15pm EST. Here’s a quick look at the Bulldogs:

How They Got Here:

-26-11-1 overall, 18-7-1-2 in conference, 4th in WCHA

-Won conference tournament quarterfinal in three games vs. Minnesota State, lost conference tournament semifinal vs. Minnesota

-4-0 NCAA first round win vs. Harvard, 2-1 NCAA quarterfinal win over Minnesota

-Notable season series: 3-0 vs. Harvard, 2-2 vs. Ohio State, 1-3 vs. Wisconsin, 3-3 vs. Minnesota

What to Watch For:

-The headliners for Minnesota Duluth are the top line of Gabbie Hughes, Clarkson transfer Elizabeth Giguere, and Anna Klein, and rightfully so. Hughes and Giguere are both finalists for the Patty Kazmaier award this year, and as good as they were in the regular season, they’ve taken their game to another level in the postseason. Hughes scored the first three goals in the win over Harvard and then the game-winner against Minnesota, with all four goals set up by Giguere. Expect that to continue to be the main driver of their offense again this weekend—Giguere setting up plays and Hughes finishing them off.

But outside of the obvious benefits of adding a former Patty Kaz winner in Giguere to the line-up, one of the more understated advantages is that it allowed the Bulldogs to move Naomi Rogge, a legit first line-caliber player, down to the second line, giving the Bulldogs some much needed scoring depth.

There’s a strong possibility that the super-strong top lines on each team end up cancelling each other out a little bit, and the team that can get something from down the line chart ends up with the edge.

-While last week was very much a revenge game for Northeastern when they took on Wisconsin and were able to avenge their national championship game loss, the Huskies will find themselves in the opposite role this week. Minnesota Duluth will be looking to avenge their 2021 Frozen Four semifinal loss to Northeastern last year, in which they lost 3-2 in overtime after a somewhat controversial non-call that helped set up Northeastern’s winning goal.

The Bulldogs have been pretty much locked in on returning to the Frozen Four and getting another shot at the title ever since the loss to Northeastern last year, with a couple seniors using their extra Covid year for one more shot. Northeastern might be the favorite, but the intangibles might be on UMD’s side.

-Minnesota Duluth was one of the major proponents of expanding the NCAA Tournament, and the expansion of the tournament to 11 teams this past December has paid off for them big time. Under the old format, the Bulldogs would have been the last team out of the field. They pass the eye test and most people had them ranked in the 4/5 range in national polls all season, but when you play 12 regular season games against the top three teams in the country, you’re going to take some losses. The expanded field gave them their shot however, and they’ve made the most of it.

-There is a surprising amount of intrigue in goal for the Bulldogs for a team that is on the cusp of a national title. Veteran Emma Soderberg was the clear #1 through the first half of the season for the Bulldogs, but when Soderberg left to play for Team Sweden at the Olympics, back-up Jojo Chobak stepped into the starter’s role and was outstanding, leading the Bulldogs to shutout victories at Ohio State and at Wisconsin. Soderberg was a bit shaky in her return from the Olympics, which opened the door for Chobak to start the final two games of UMD’s WCHA first round series and the semifinal of the WCHA Final Faceoff.

Soderberg then returned to the net for the NCAA Tournament where she stopped 54 of 55 shots in Minnesota Duluth’s two wins. Expect the senior to get the start in goal on Thursday.