Revenge sure is sweet, and the Mavericks are eyeing it.
This weekend the RV Minnesota State Women’s Hockey team gets another shot at revenge in their two-game series against No. 7, Minnesota Duluth, Friday and Saturday at 3 pm and 2 pm, respectively. Earlier this season, the Bulldogs got the best of the Mavericks, beating Minnesota State 1-2 in overtime and 0-2 back in October.
Revenge does not necessarily come in the form of the two earlier losses this season, however.
Senior forward, Claire Butorac, who became a Maverick back in 2018, knows all about the growing rivalry between the schools.
“It’s been building up for a couple of years,” explained Butorac. “I think last year was kind of the tell-all because they were the four and we were five seed going into playoffs, and then we brought them into that third game of the series last year. It’s always tough when your year ends, and the team that ends your season, you wanna get a game or two on them in the next coming season.”
The Bulldogs have handed the Mavericks back-to-back first-round exits in the past two Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) playoffs. However, making up for the two losses earlier in the season would make it even sweeter for the Mavs if they can pull off another top-15 upset in the USCHO poll.
“I think this weekend’s going to be really fun for us because we’ve been able to develop everyone on our team. It’ll be a good rivalry weekend. We’re excited,” stated Butorac.
Minnesota State is also capping off a rough stretch of games which first began with an away series at No. 8 Wisconsin. The stretch continued to Columbus for a series against No. 1 Ohio State, and will now be concluded with a home series against Duluth, before taking a break from the USCHO’s top 15. That streak will end with a home series against Bemidji State Feb. 10 and Feb. 11.
Right now, all focus is on what’s ahead and that is the No. 7 Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. As for what to expect, Butorac explained that the Bulldogs “are going to be physical, fast, and they play really good to their system.” The senior forward also said, “they also have a really good goalie that’s been hot lately, as well as a couple of other big-name forwards.”
Graduate students, Gabby Hughes and Emma Soderberg, currently lead the Bulldogs at their respective positions. Hughes leads Minnesota Duluth in scoring at this point in the season with seven goals and 27 assists, while Soderberg minds the net averaging a mere 1.63 goals allowed per game.
The Mavericks will have to do their due diligence on the two Duluth players, but Butorac believes if Minnesota State plays their game, they can come out on top.
“We need to play our game, which is a fast and hard-working game,” explained Butorac. “Coach always tells us we need to be hard to play against, and I think that’s really something we’re gonna have to focus on this weekend. We need to be gritty at the net fronts and at the blue lines, getting pucks deep, having confidence in ourselves that we can come into a weekend like this playing a top-10 team and come out on top.”
During this series earlier in the year, the Mavericks also lost senior captain and defenseman, Anna Wilgren, to a season-ending injury. Minnesota State has missed her presence, and Butorac explained that although she is no longer able to be on the ice to help, the Mavs have been ready to step up in her absence.
“Losing Anna was really tough for our team. She is a leader not only on the ice but also off the ice,” said Butorac. “She wears a ‘C’ for a reason. When we played Duluth last time, we had a lot of young defenders play quite a bit. Kianna [Roeske] and Lily [Ramirez], they’re freshmen, and that was their second series in the WCHA. They’ve grown as players tremendously in confidence and in skill, and having them develop so much coming into this weekend definitely helps us out.”
Write to Kole Buelow at Kole.Buelow@mnsu.edu
Header photo: MSU Women’s Hockey team look for wins as they have a two-game home series against Minnesota Duluth Friday, Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. (Lilly Anderson)