Christmas holidays seemed to fly by for the Bulldogs as we all returned from Canada, Sweden, Finland, Germany and different parts of the U.S. to Duluth, MN. All of us returned to Duluth on January 2nd to begin team practice and fitness testing. We are very fortunate that Coach Shannon Miller gave us a very extensive Christmas break because we have teammates from all over the world who travel thousands of miles to play here.
Our first two weeks back were very important for us. Our first two series’ were against number 1 ranked Wisconsin and Number 2 Minnesota. The two weeks we spent preparing for Minnesota felt like a boot camp. We woke up around 9 am every morning, headed down to the rink for power skating and skills development. After our on ice we headed to the weight room to have an off ice workout either lift or cardio and then headed home for lunch. We only had about 3 or 4 hours off before we headed back to the rink for 6:30 night practice. It felt like a lot of work at the time, but really paid off when it came time to play. Unlike most teams we had the first weekend off. We were put in a very unique position as No1 Wisconsin was playing No2 Minnesota that weekend. Minnesota was able to come out with 1 win and 1 tie against Wisconsin, which pushed them to No1 against us. This gave us the opportunity of playing the No1 and No2 team both weekends. These were two very huge series for us, as it would give us the opportunity to move up in the NCAA rankings.
The first game against Minnesota was very exciting. Our team got to the rink and there were brand new uniforms sitting in our stalls. We came out flying that night. We ended up beating Minnesota 4-1 in the first game. Although dropping the second game and losing 3-0 we were very proud of our performance. Our team felt we had a much better performance the Friday night, but it was very important for us to get at least one win out of that series.
The next weekend the Bulldogs traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to play the badgers. This is always our favorite road trip. When we travel to Madison we play at the Kohl Center, which has an Olympic size sheet of ice. This is much different than we’re used to. We got to Madison around 1 pm on Thursday and had a great practice that Thursday night. That weekend was the best hockey our team had played all year. Although out shooting the Badgers 32-25 in shots, we ended up losing the first game 2-0. The Saturday night at the Kohl center was a very intense game. The Bulldogs were leading the game 1-0 at the end of the first. By the end of the second Wisconsin had taken a lead of 3-1 scoring two power play goals. The Bulldogs were able to climb our way back making it a 3-3 game, taking it into overtime. 44 seconds into overtime, Wisconsin’s Brooke Ammerman scored to win the game. Although this counts as a tie in the overall NCAA rankings we were still very unset with this loss.
Our team has come along way since the beginning of the season. We’ve had our ups and downs and this half is really going to show what we can become as a team. The Bulldogs are traveling to St. Cloud, MN this weekend to play St. Cloud State in our third series of the new year. It is really important that we don’t drop any games to teams ranked lower than us as this could pull us out of the top eight heading into playoffs.