It may just have been an exhibition game, but if it was any indication of what's to come for the No. 9 University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team, the 2018-19 season looks to be a good one.
The Minnesota Whitecaps of the NWHL defeated the Bulldogs 4-3 at AMSOIL Arena Saturday, but UMD flexed an early offensive outburst in the first period, thanks in part to two goals by freshmen forward Gabbie Hughes.
"We learned we can put the puck in the net, that we're fast and creative," said UMD head coach Maura Crowell. "It was also an exhibition, so it showed some of the more technical areas that we need to clean up and some of the details we need to refine, but there were a lot of positives."
Hughes shoveled in a rebound just 1:23 into the game to give UMD the early 1-0 lead. Sophomore forward Naomi Rogge, UMD's leading scorer from a year ago, backhanded a rebound off an Ashton Bell shot to double that lead at the 8:49 mark.
Hughes struck again at 15:05, picking up her own rebound for her second goal of the afternoon, but the Whitecaps took advantage of a power play minutes later. Maddie Rooney's Olympic teammate Hannah Brandt drew the Whitecaps within two on a goal of her own at 18:47, and the Bulldogs took a 3-1 advantage into the first intermission.
After being outshot by the Bulldogs 18-8 in the first period, the Whitecaps pulled together two goals in the second period, including a second power play score by Brandt at the 19:07 mark to pull even with UMD at 3-3. The Whitecaps then went ahead late on a game-winning goal by Lee Stecklein that came with just 1:05 remaining in the third period.
Defending MVP @AlexaGruschow of the @riveters sat down for a Q&A with @DRdiabloTHW.— NWHL (@NWHL) September 21, 2018
"Going into next season, everything is moving in the right direction. I think everyone should just be really excited for Season 4 with the NWHL." -Gruschow
📝 https://t.co/IwU80TyKLh pic.twitter.com/JePL2VZjCP
In addition to Hughes' double goal effort, both sophomore Anna Klein and junior Ryleigh Houston had two assists for the Bulldogs.
UMD outshot the Whitecaps 37-36 in the contest, but the Whitecaps outshot the Bulldogs 28-19 in the second and third periods. Two goaltenders logged time for UMD, including Rooney, who made 19 saves in the first 40 minutes -- her first Bulldog action since March of 2017 in a UMD jersey. In her UMD debut, freshman Emma Soderberg had 13 stops for UMD in the third period.
The Bulldogs will host No. 4 Boston College next weekend at AMSOIL in its first games of the regular season. Opening face-off is set for 7:00 p.m. Friday.