It's been a long time since UMD Basketball hosted a playoff game at Romano Gym. A drought that comes to an end this week, as UMD hosts Winona State in a 1st Round NSIC Tournament game.
It was several weeks ago that the contracts of head women's hockey coach, Shannon Miller and her coaching staff would not be renewed after this season ends. Miller and her staff all happen to be gay or bisexual. Now, a National Group is pulling UMD from consideration this year to be named an LGBT friendly school.
Valentine's Day was nothing but heartbreak for the bulldogs.Scott Sandelin called his team's performance Saturday against St. Cloud State one of the worst he'd seen this season.Fortunately, UMD was going to be 4th in the NCHC no matter what happened Saturday. However, because of the loss, UMD is four points back of a three–way tie for 1st, instead of just one.The Bulldogs lead Denver by two points for fourth, and home ice advantage in the 1st round of the NCHC playoffs.The loss also dropped UMD one spot to 7th in this week's USCHO Division I poll.North Dakota moved back in to the top spot, with Omaha 5th, Miami 6th, and Denver 9th.Meanwhile, the UMD women watched Minnesota celebrate another WCHA regular season title after the Gophers blanked the Bulldogs Saturday.The loss left UMD with only one shootout win against Minnesota in 13 meetings since the 2012-13 season.The Bulldogs can finish this season anywhere from 3rd-6th in the WCHA.UMD starts the final week of the regular season one point in front of 5th place Bemidji State for 4th, and two points clear of this week's opponent Ohio State.The Bulldogs also dropped three spots to 9th in the USCHO poll.The Gophers are still 2nd, Wisconsin 4th, North Dakota tied for 7th, and Ohio State received votes.
For UMD Women's Hockey Co-Captain Zoe Hickel, Friday was a pretty good day.First, Hickel was named one of five finalists For the Hockey Humanitarian Award.Then the senior from Anchorage, Alaska was named to Team USA for the upcoming Women's World Championships in Malmo, Sweden.The World Championships will be Hickel's first time appearing for the U.S. Senior National Team. Hickel last represented her country at the 2010 Under 18 World Championships.
UMD Softball opens its season Thursday, however hits, runs, and errors were far from the players' minds as the Bulldogs boarded busses Tuesday, bound for Monticello, Arkansas.Their thoughts were with Coach Jen Banford and her decision not to accept UMD's contract offer.That announcement came Monday shortly after Banford informed the school.Both sides confirm the offer included a pay cut. The school says the lower salary reflected Banford no longer holding the job of Director of Women's Hockey Operations and was in line with other Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Softball coaches.Banford says her relationship with UMD Was damaged beyond repair because of the situation with Shannon Miller and the Women's Hockey team.She says now she has to get her team focused on softball and having a successful season."You have to tell your team that you can't accept that offer," said Banford. "I never want to disappoint them and let them down. As a coach leading in to the season, I don't want the focus to be me, the focus needs to be them.""She's a successful coach, a big person in the community, is very kind," said Junior Ashley Lewis. "It doesn't really make sense to us. It's a very big distraction, especially the day before we leave when all we want to do is play softball.""If anything, I think it's going to bring us closer together and act as motivation for us to go out and have a successful season and finish strong for coach," added Junior Sami Schnyder. "We'll have her go out with a bang."
UMD Softball coach Jen Banford turned down the school's contract offer Monday, and won't coach the Bulldogs after this spring.The University's announcement comes a couple months after Banford was told she wouldn't be back as Director of Women's Hockey Operations as part the school not renewing the contracts of Shannon Miller and her staff.2015 will be Banford's 10th season as Softball coach.She led the Bulldogs to NCAA regionals in 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012.Banford was also named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 after the UMD won the league's regular season title.Athletic Director Josh Berlo released a statement that read "We are sorry coach banford has not accepted an appointment to continue coaching umd softball. She leaves umd softball with a strong foundation. We appreciate coach banford's contributions to umd athletics over the past nine years."Banford has agreed to an interview with FOX 21 Sports Tuesday, this story will be updated then.
The college football year unofficially starts with National Signing Day.High school seniors from across the country faxed their Letters of Intent to schools from coast to coast.At UMD, Curt Wiese's third recruiting class featured 26 new Bulldogs.But only one local.He's Hermantown's Kole Zuidmulder.A two season starter at Quarterback, Zuidmulder moves to Tight End in college.At 6'5", 225 pounds, he's athletic enough to pull off the switch.But again, Zuidmulder is one of 26 new recruits, and as you'd expect, Wiese is proud of the class he and his staff put together."There's a reason we recruited these young men," said Wiese. "I think they're tremendous people, they're quality students and good football players. The real test will come in the fall when we have an opportunity to work with these guys and see how they fit in to our schemes. We feel really good about this class, feel good about the guys we have coming to campus. I think our staff has done a tremendous job."
With only four games left in the regular season, Saint Scholastica's hockey team is without its leader.The school announced Wednesday Head Coach Mark Wick is taking an indefinite leave of absence because of medical issues.Wick's 145 wins are the most in CSS program history.Assistant Coach Ben Gordon takes over on an interim basis, starting with this weekend's series at St. Norbert.
UMD's race to the top of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference has hit a couple speed bumps since the start of the 2nd half.The Bulldogs, who were so hot in the 1st half, have won only twice in six games since winter break.But UMD did snap a 5-game win-less streak, with last week's win over the Gophers.Now, the 'Dogs need to get back on track in conference.UUMD finished the 1st half tied for the NCHC lead.But the 2nd half swoon has left the bulldogs in 3rd and only four points in front of 5th place Denver.5th place is somewhere Scott Sandelin doesn't want to be.He says the time to turn things around is now."When you're in a bit of a funk, we've got to get back to the things we need to do," said Sandelin. "That's pretty much all year, but really at this time I think you can put so much in their heads about what other teams have and what they do that you forget about what you need to do."Like the men, the UMD women are also 3rd in their league.And in the next three weeks, Shannon Miller's team will take on the other three teams in the WCHA's top 4.The Bulldogs are coming off a weekend where they outscored Mankato 16–0, including a 12-spot friday.But a sluggish start Saturday led to Miller giving the 'Dogs a little pep talk."I challenged them," Miller said. "I said you can either waste the opportunity today and just play well enough to win, or you can get down and get after it for the next 40 minutes and start playing like you want to be a champion."
UMD Hockey Captain Adam Krause is one of 20 nominees for the 2015 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.