UMD faces No. 1 Minnesota

Duluth News Tribune
UMD women's hockey
Minnesota Duluth faces No. 1 Minnesota in a WCHA women's series Friday and Saturday at Amsoil Arena. (File / News Tribune)

Curt Giles simply nodded his head when he was ready to go back on the ice for Minnesota Duluth in the late 1970s. Coaches Gus Hendrickson and Mike Sertich wanted their All-American defenseman to log as many minutes as he could handle. He was that valuable.

When Brigette Lacquette catches her breath between shifts, she usually catches the eye of UMD defensemen coach Steve Macdonald.

Giles, from The Pas, and Lacquette, from Mallard, are northern Manitobans who epitomize versatile offensive defenders, who can be physical.

“Brigette is strong, durable and doesn’t shy away from anything,” said Macdonald, a second-year assistant from Winnipeg, Manitoba. “We use her in almost every situation from power play, penalty kill, odd-man and even strength. She’s a special talent.”

UMD (3-4-1) is relying on every bit of talent in the early stages of 2012-13 to remain in sight of the leaders in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The young Bulldogs are 2-3-1 in the league entering a series with No. 1-ranked Minnesota (10-0, 6-0). Games are 7:07 p.m. today and Saturday at Amsoil Arena.

Lacquette was on the 2012 WCHA all-rookie team, with 20 points in 36 games, and was tied for UMD’s lead in penalties with 31. She came to Duluth after playing at the University of Manitoba and is a rising star for the Canadian national team.

Her resume includes a gold medal in the 2010 World U18 Championships and a silver medal in 2009. She’s now with Canada’s U22 team and is expected to participate in the 2013 Meco Cup in January in Fussen, Germany.

The 5-foot-6 Lacquette was invited to Canada’s senior team camp in September in Calgary, Alberta, with the country’s top 40 players.

“The senior team coaches give you a lot of feedback about the areas where you need improvement,” said Lacquette this week. “They want me to work on the defensive game, explosiveness, penalty killing. I ultimately want to play in the Olympics, so I’m listening to what they’re saying.”

Terance Lacquette had his daughter on skates by age 4, Brigette recalls, on a rink outside their home. Older sister, Tara, 21, is a goalie for Alberta in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and younger brother, Taran, 16, is a defenseman with the Parkland Rangers in the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League.

All three were coached at one time by their dad, now an assistant coach with Parkland.

“Playing on boys teams in youth hockey led me to think offensively and to develop the vision to carry or pass the puck,” said Lacquette. “I’m finding out now you have to be selective in picking and choosing the right time to be offensive.”

UMD coach Shannon Miller ranks Lacquette among the better defensemen in Division I, yet agrees that Lacquette is a work in progress.

“There were times as a freshman that she stickhandled too much and lost the puck on a turnover. She’s still maturing and developing better habits,” said Miller. “But we certainly want her out there as often as possible. She has a strong will and is so skilled.”

In eight games this season, Lacquette has a goal and an assist.

After four seasons at UMD, Giles went on to earn a silver medal with Canada in the 1992 Winter Olympics, played in 895 NHL games through 1993 and was selected for the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s now head boys coach at Edina (Minn.) High School.

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