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College women's hockey: Convery a consistent presence in Bulldogs' net

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News Tribune file photo Minnesota Duluth senior goaltender Jessica Convery makes a save against Minnesota's Grace Zumwinkle on Oct. 21 at Amsoil Arena. 2 / 2

Goaltender Jessica Convery left the Mercyhurst women's hockey program over the summer hoping to find a program where she could be the go-to in goal every night as a senior.

This summer, Minnesota Duluth found itself looking for just that — an experienced, veteran No. 1 — after junior-to-be Maddie Rooney was snatched up by the U.S. Women's National Team for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The timing of it all couldn't have been more perfect, and so far both sides have gotten what they were looking for out of this one-season relationship. Convery has started 19 of the Bulldogs' 21 games — including the last 14 — and has shown no signs of slowing down going into this weekend's WCHA series against Bemidji State, set for 7:07 p.m. Friday and 4:07 p.m. Saturday at Amsoil Arena.

Convery's numbers (.913 save percentage, 2.32 goals-against average, two shutouts) after 19 starts haven't matched Rooney's at this point (.941, 1.62, 4), but the Detroit-area native has provided the consistency in goal that Rooney gave UMD a year ago.

"She came in with a lot of experience and that's been a positive from the beginning," said UMD assistant coach Laura Bellamy, a former standout college goaltender at Harvard. "As she has gotten used to our league and the shooters in our league, the strength of the players that we play, I think her confidence has grown and it should continue in the second half."

Convery shared the net in her three seasons with the Lakers. She appeared in just one game as a freshman before making six starts and eight appearances as a sophomore (.895, 2.66). A year ago, sharing the net with a sophomore, she saw 21 starts and 24 appearances (.911, 2.08).

Mercyhurst is once again splitting time in net this season between a junior and freshman.

Convery said playing regularly at UMD has helped build up her confidence. The trust of the coaching staff has given her trust in her own abilities and those around her, she said.

"It does play a big part in my confidence, knowing that the coaching staff believes in me and that I can help the team and put the team in a good position to win games," Convery said. "Being able to play night in and night out, it's a little easier to get in a rhythm and get used to being in the game. ... It's a lot easier to be consistent and get in a rhythm when you are playing a lot."

Convery knows it will be important for her to remain consistent during the second half. UMD (9-11-1 overall, 5-8-1 WCHA) heads into this weekend fifth in the WCHA, just three points back of the fourth-place Beavers (11-11-2, 6-7-1) in the tussle for the final home-ice spot in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

In addition to improving consistency, Convery wants to be a better communicator and more aggressive in the second half now that she has adjusted to the level of play in the WCHA.

Bellamy said she would like to see Convery be more aggressive at times as well, but not too aggressive. Convery's patience in goal is a key attribute, especially when it comes to breakaways and shootouts, Bellamy said.

"She's not the type of goalie who is going to come out and attack the puck all the time," Bellamy said. "Sometimes I think that gets the best of her, and she knows that. She's worked on that. It's also a big strength in her game. She lets things come to her, lets pucks come to her."

Crowell coaching U-18 team

Bellamy, a Duluth native in her third season on the Bulldogs' staff, will serve as head coach for the second consecutive weekend as Maura Crowell continues her duty as the associate head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Women's National Team.

Team USA — which also features future Bulldogs Maggie Flaherty, a forward from Lakeville, Minn., and Lizi Norton, a defenseman from Orono, Minn. — has reached the semifinals of the U-18 Women's World Championship and will face Canada in Saturday's semifinals in Dmitrov, Russia. Sweden and Russia play in the other semifinal. The gold and bronze medal games take place Saturday.

While Crowell remains overseas, the Bulldogs do have two members of the Canadian National Women's Development Team — senior defenseman Jess Healey and freshman forward Ashton Bell — back from the 2018 Nations Cup in Fussen, Germany, where Canada finished fifth. Healey was an assistant captain for Canada.

BEMIDJI STATE (11-11-2) AT UMD (9-11-1)

What: WCHA series

When: 7:07 p.m. Friday/4:07 p.m. Saturday

Where: Amsoil Arena

TV: My9 Friday/Fox Sports North-Plus Saturday


Twitter: @UMDWHockey

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

(218) 723-5317