Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

The Bulldogs are in Washington DC this weekend to participate in the D1 in DC tournament, hosted by the Washington Pride junior women’s hockey program at Medstar Capital’s Iceplex. UMD takes on Penn State at 3pm on Friday and St. Lawrence at 1:30 p.m., Saturday.

Ohio State, which visits Duluth in a week, is the fourth team to host the Saints on Friday and the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

For Rogge, this is her fourth Thanksgiving trip in five seasons at UMD, after previously attending the Nutmeg Classic at Quinnipiac (Hamden, Connecticut) in 2019, where she played at Clarkson (Potsdam, New York) in 2018 and the Windjammer Classic in Vermont in 2017.

Naomi Rogge (9) from Minnesota Duluth takes control of the puck near Sophie Helgeson (3) from Wisconsin in the second period on Sunday, October 17, 2021 at the Amsoil Arena in Duluth.  Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Naomi Rogge (9) from Minnesota Duluth takes control of the puck near Sophie Helgeson (3) from Wisconsin in the second period on Sunday, October 17, 2021 at the Amsoil Arena in Duluth. Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

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“We are usually able to hold a big Thanksgiving dinner where parents have been there and different families and it’s just a lot of bond between everyone as a whole,” Rogge said of what she enjoys about these trips. “We like to think that the Bulldog family also includes our parents and our siblings, so I think it’s super cool that we can all hang out together.”

While it was a great team-building experience, UMD coach Maura Crowell also stressed that this is a “business trip” for a Bulldogs team that will finally play non-conference matches after 10 WCHA competitions to open the 2021-22 season.

Due to scheduling issues at other schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMD has only four non-conference matches scheduled for this season. After playing College Hockey America’s Nittany Lions and the Saints of ECAC this weekend, UMD travels to play ECAC’s Harvard over the New Year.

That makes these “massive” games for a Bulldogs team that sees more than just a return to the NCAA Tournament, but yet another Frozen Four race.

“We only have four of them, so each one is a little bit bigger,” Crowell said. “The effect of these games feels a bit like a COVID year, where we had fewer games, which makes them all more important. That’s how they feel in a sense.”

WCHA – where Crowell said all matches are massive as well – is currently unbeaten in non-conference games heading into Thanksgiving, with 17-0-1 in matches against CHA, ECAC and Hockey East. The Bulldogs and Buckeyes are the only two WCHA programs that have not yet played non-conference games, so they are both looking to make their mark on the league’s success.

“It makes me think of the IceBreaker tournament a few years ago,” Crowell said, referring to UMD’s trip to Buffalo in 2019. “We played with a ton of pride over of course UMD, but also our league that represented there “It’s the same thing here. We’re talking about being the best league in the country. We have to show it. So we’re looking forward to doing that.”

NCAA tournament expansion clears another major hurdle

The NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee supported a recommended format for an 11-team NCAA National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Championship tournament and supported its entry into force this season.

Under the format proposed by the National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Committee – which includes UMD athletic director Josh Berlo – the top five seeds will receive byes in the first round, with the fifth seed playing a quarter-final game at one of the top four seeds (but not necessarily on the No. 4 seed, though Crowell said Wednesday that it is her understanding, No. 4 will host No. 5, despite the NCAA’s wording).

The three matches in the first round would take place on campus for three of the top four seeds, and there will be a day off between the first round and quarter-final matches.

From there, the tournament remains the same, with the quarterfinal winners advancing to the Frozen Four on the 18th-20th. March in Penn State.

“The Women’s Ice Hockey Committee believes this format allows the tournament to remain on its current schedule,” the NCAA wrote. “Committee members believe it is important to ensure that there is a rest day for the teams after competing in the first round, and then to have to face a team that received a farewell to the quarterfinals.”

The format still lacks final approval by the NCAA Division I Council on December 15th. Crowell said she is excited that the final approval stamp should make it official.

“I think the format will be as good as it can be with an 11-team tournament,” said Crowell, who was part of a working group this offseason that helped put together a proposal to expand the NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament . “Again, our focus is on getting more teams in in relation to all the little things. But we have to get to where we have to play, who we have to play, how it works – we want to be ready.”

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