Minnesota-Duluth missed out on the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year and only the third time in its history. Even worse, for the first time the Bulldogs failed to advance to the conference semifinals after being swept at home in the quarters by Ohio State.
A big reason why is that the team’s goal output dropped for the fifth straight season; UMD no longer possesses the thunder that was once its trademark. Defenseman Brigette Lacquette seems likely to delay her junior season as she is centralized with Team Canada, and the last Bulldog class to earn an NCAA title has graduated. Things seem bleak indeed in Duluth.
If we’ve learned anything, it is to never count the Bulldogs out. Neither the team’s 2008 nor 2010 NCAA titles looked likely in the months leading up to them.
“I just think that Duluth is an incredibly dangerous team,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “They’re well-coached and they’ve got a great tradition up there, and so anytime you’ve got a tradition like that and you’ve been in the national picture, you have that experience. I’m sure Shannon [Miller] wasn’t pleased with their season last year, so I would expect them to come back pretty strong.”
Even a coach as accomplished as Miller can’t get out on the ice and score goals, so she’ll need someone to reverse the recent trend. Returning players such as junior Jenna McParland and senior Jamie Kenyon have shown signs of scoring prowess, but have yet to tap into their full potential. Additions like Canadian U-18 standout Ashleigh Brykaliuk and Vermont transfer Meghan Heurtas could jumpstart the attack.
The offense isn’t the only problem, as goals allowed have risen the last two seasons in spite of a focus on team defense. For the first time in history, UMD’s opponents outscored the Bulldogs in 2012-13.
Factors such as these are probably what WCHA coaches were considering when they voted UMD to finish outside the top four for the first time in the preseason poll. However, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before, and that’s not how it ends. Expect UMD to enjoy a healthier season this year, look for goalie Kayla Black to make strides in her second year, and the Bulldogs will be back on home ice when the playoffs commence.