Gopher Women’s Hockey

January 11

Yes, the date of a Vikings playoff game, but I’d rather watch women’s hockey anytime.  It’s not that I’m not a Vikings fan, it’s that game itself is boring and the NFL is run by . . . well, take a gander at “Big Game” by Mark Leibovich . . .

[A beautiful morning for a hockey game, at a balmy minus 17 . . . ]

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[With friend John Etnier (black coat), and his friend and former colleague Mike (blue coat)  from Edina, we gathered in St. Cloud, first lunching at RJ’s, before heading on to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.  It looks surprisingly benign here because we were only one parking lot lane from the building – behind us where we parked was an ice field as generally throughout this whole area this winter ice has been a major issue, particularly for pedestrians . . . ]

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[I did not come here to disparage the Vikings, only to note that my favorite spectator sport is girls high school hockey.  This is another level up, but the Gopher women’s hockey program has been the one statewide athletic program that year in and year out takes a back seat to no one.  The Gophers are currently ranked No. 2 in the country . . . ]

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[John is a native Twin Citian, but he colleged at St. Cloud State where as you can see here he is a member of the Huskies Hockey Wall of Fame.  Back in the mid to late 60’s, the equipment was not quite up to modern standards, but to the best of my knowledge John still has all his teeth . . . ]

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[Our rink view from our private suite . . . ]

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[The maroon and gold line of the Golden Gophers . . . ]

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[And the opening jump ball . . . ]

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[The Gophers won the draw which appeared to have split their defensemen . . . ]

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[Of the visible Gopher numbers here, Abigail Boreen (22) is sophomore forward from Hill-Murray, Crystalyn Hengler (13) is a sophomore defenseman from Eden Prairie, and Gracie Ostertag (6) is a sophomore defenseman from Shattuck . . . ]

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[Sarah Potomak (26) is a senior forward from Aldergrove, British Columbia, and Madeline Wethington (5) is freshman defenseman from Blake.  Madeline scored the 1st goal of the game just 3 1/2 minutes into the game . . . ]

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[A Gopher rush led by (it appears) by Amy Potomak (16), Sarah’s sister and sophomore forward, Alex Woken (20) a senior forward from Shattuck, and Sarah . . . ]

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[And Alex looks like she got the shot . . . ]

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[And she scored the 2nd goal of the game . . . ]

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[Then I somehow missed the power play goal by Taylor Heise (9), a sophomore from Red Wing.  That 3 – 0 first period score would stand up as the final score . . . ]

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[Brad Frost, Gopher coach with a 319 – 53 – 27 in 10 years, crosses the ice between periods assisted by his assistants . . . ]

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[Mucking it up in the 2nd period, Gopher goalie Sydney Scobee, a senior from Breck, in the background . . . ]

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[After two periods . . . ]

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[Something learned between periods is that both John and Mike, as ex-college hockey players, mow their lawns in a Zamboni pattern . . . ]

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[And here’s “Frosty” again . . . ]

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[After a dearth of photos in the first two periods, I loaded up for the third.  The Taylor (9) line with Sarah (26) and Grace Zumwinkle (12), a junior forward from Breck . . . ]

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[Although all the Gophers are obviously very good, Grace kind of jumps out you with her size, speed, and shot (in her high school days, considered the hardest in the state . . . ]

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[Abigail raced down the far boards . . . ]

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[And then mucks it up in center ice . . . ]

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[Grace and Taylor in the offensive zone . . . ]

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[I’ll just say Grace . . . ]

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[Abigail, Emily Oden (21), a sophomore forward from Edina, and a friend pound the net while Emily Brown (2), a junior defenseman from Blaine, lurks in the background . . . ]

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[And Grace again . . . ]

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[The Huskies goalie is Emma Polusny (32), a junior from Mound.  I’m sure our Cardinals played against her in high school, probably more than once . . . ]

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[Olivia Knowles (24) is a junior defenseman from Campbell River, British Columbia, and Taylor Wente (28) is a junior forward from Maple Grove . . . ]

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[Kippin Keller (8) is a senior forward from Minnetonka, and it’s either Taylor Wente (28) or Katie Robinson (18), a senior forward from Kasson-Mantorville behind her . . . ]

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[And here’s Abigail and the two Emilys again . . . ]

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[And it’s 10-player pile up in front of the goal . . . ]

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[Gracie (6) and Catie Skaja (3), a sophomore forward from New Prague . . . ]

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[And another multi-player pile up in this non-contact sport . . . ]

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[And there’s Abigail again.  Watching the game I didn’t realize how much time she spent hanging around the net . . . ]

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[Catie and Kippin . . . ]

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[Catie and Emily Oden . . . ]

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[Time to say Goodnight, Folks.  I’m kind of amazed that in just random shooting I covered every player (I think?) . . .

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[The final, as noted earlier, the same as after the first period . . . ]

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[Takeaways:  The Huskies aren’t as bad as their record.  Plus, they’re really interesting – looking back up at their roster, it’s very international in nature.  The Gophers weren’t strikingly good, but we were looking at them through the lens of previous teams – specifically the 62-game winning streak teams between February 2012 and November 2013.  I went several games during that great era (through 2016) when the team was loaded with Olympians.  Finally, both John and Mike (who played hockey at Mankato State) agree (as do I) that where the Gophers play, Ridder Arena, is the ultimate hockey venue . . . ]

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Goaltending is a normal job, sure. How would you like it in your job if every time you made a small mistake, a red light went on over your desk and 15,000 people stood up and yelled at you?  ~  Jacques Plante

Up Next:  More games tomorrow night

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