Skarzynski moves to forward amid Gophers’ injuries

The freshman has four points and 18 shots in 22 games so far this season.

Gophers defense Sophie Skarzynski passes the puck down the rink while playing against Yale in Ridders Arena on Friday, Nov. 11, 2015.

Image by Joe Sulik, Daily File Photo

Gophers defense Sophie Skarzynski passes the puck down the rink while playing against Yale in Ridders Arena on Friday, Nov. 11, 2015.

by Emily Polglaze

With three forwards injured and forward Maryanne Menefee leaving the program, the Gophers have had to adjust their lines.
Many players have had to move around the lineup, but freshman Sophie Skarzynski made perhaps the biggest change of all with her switch from defense to forward.
“We like players with versatility that put the team first,” head coach Brad Frost said. “Sophie is an example of that.” 
Skarzynski came to college as a versatile defensive player, but she said she knew her position might eventually change.
“I was recruited as a defenseman,” Skarzynski said. “But [the coaching staff] had mentioned that there were times I may be moved up to play forward.”
She already had some offensive experience to draw from, as she played a similar utility role on the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team during her junior and senior year of high school.
Skarzynski won a silver medal with the team at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Women’s World Championship in 2014 and won gold as a senior in 2015.
Gophers associate head coach Joel Johnson has served as the head coach of the National U-18 Team since 2014, and Skarzynski said he worked frequently with her last winter on her offense.
Four other players on the Minnesota roster have played both positions in juniors Kelsey Cline, Paige Haley and Megan Wolfe and senior Brook Garzone. 
Garzone began her time with the Gophers as a defender but has been an offensive player for the team since her sophomore year. She’s scored a career-high seven goals halfway through her senior season.
Skarzynski played as the team’s third line center last weekend against Minnesota State Mankato, and Garzone served as her right wing.
“What’s great about our team is that we have depth and people who can play multiple positions, like Sophie,” Garzone said. “I think she did well. There’s a few bumps here and there, but I think back to when I moved from [defense] to forward, and it’s always a transition, but you have your teammates there helping you through it.”
Skarzynski has four points and 18 shots playing in 22 of the Gophers 23 games so far.
Frost said Skarzynski will likely return to defense once senior captain Hannah Brandt and freshman forward Taylor Willliamson return to the lineup, but even if her time at forward is limited, Skarzynski sees the benefit of cross training. 
“As a defenseman I want to be solid, make good plays and get lots of shots on net,” Skarzynski said. “And in switching to forward, I don’t know how long I’ll be up. But I want to know my role there and focus on being a power forward.”