The UMD women’s hockey team opens their season this weekend, but it’s a much different start than a year ago.

A year ago, they went into the year knowing that they were hosting two major tournaments in women’s college hockey, the WCHA Final Face-Off end of the year playoff tournament and the NCAA Frozen Four.  The Bulldogs were in one, but not the other.

UMD pulled off the big upset in the WCHA Tournament, knocking off the then, NCAA Champions, the Wisconsin Badgers and then the Bulldogs needed to win the next night as well, against Minnesota to get into the title game in their own Amsoil Arena.  The Bulldogs fell short, and their season came to a quick end.

The Bulldogs have 9 new freshman joining the team this year and Senior Kate Wilson says it will be exciting seeing the new players in uniform.  Wilson had 22 points a year ago in 35 games and she said, “I’m very impressed with the new players both on and off the ice, I think we will have a great team.”

Hermantown native, Emma Stauber played in 36 games for the Bulldogs a year ago, and tallied three points and said it will be key playing in front of their new, young goaltenders.  She added, “We had a great end of the year, (last year) and hopefully we can pick that right up from the start this year.”

And Senior Captain Jessica Wong has the responsibility to bring it all together this year as the captain.  She had the game winning goal, in the Bulldogs last NCAA Championship game in 2010 and is one of five seniors that have won a national title.  This year’s Frozen Four title game is in Minneapolis, and the she said the team just needs to play well from the start. She said, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Gophers should be contenders again this year, along with UMD.

The Bulldogs will start the year with several players sitting out game action this weekend due to injuries.  Another is with the Canada development program and will miss the exhibition games.

The Bulldogs are picked to finish 4th in the WCHA in the WCHA Preseason Coaches Poll that was announced on Tuesday.  Gophers are picked to win it, with Wisconsin and North Dakota tied for 2nd.  The Badgers will open a new arena this season, that is located next to the Kohl Center on campus.

The Bulldogs are ranked 8th in the country in the Pre-season national polls, and Head Coach Shannon Miller said the NCAA title chase will have at least four WCHA teams in the mix for the title again this year, UMD, Badgers, North Dakota and defending champs, Gophers.

The WCHA has won all 12 of the previous NCAA titles, with UMD leading the way with five. Miller said, “We do have more talent then last year, we have more depth.  Two freshman goalies, but more depth on skates.”  In previous years, UMD has had some veteran goaltenders with a lot of experience, but this years is a bit different, Miller said, “The starting position is wide-opened, we feel we have three competent goaltenders, all of them good athletes and good work ethics and attitudes so it will be a good competitive race that will make the rest of the girls recognize how good it will be to be good offensively and be real honest defensively.”

This is Miller’s 13th year with the Bulldogs and she has 334 wins during that time.  She is is the only Head Coach the school has had in women’s hockey and has coached in 470 UMD games.

UMDs roster again has players from all-around the world, but this year, also includes one from Australia, in forward Alivia Del Basso and one from Florida for the first time, Hannah Bramm.

The Bulldogs first official games of the year, will be their home and season opener Oct. 5th and 6th vs. the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Bulldogs retain the same coaching staff as a year ago, as Laura Schuler and Steve Macdonald return as assistant coaches and Brant Nicklin is again the goaltending coach.

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