Gillanders sisters square off in Gophers’ opener

Nate Gotlieb

Playing a best friend and big sister is never easy, especially in your first college game. ItâÄòs a task Baylee Gillanders has to manage. Baylee, a freshman defenseman for the Gophers, will play against her older sister Kali, a junior defenseman for Clarkson, Friday and Saturday night when Minnesota heads on the road to play the Golden Knights. Baylee is the third Gillanders sibling to play college hockey. Her older brother Dustin was a forward at Colgate from 2003-08 and Kali scored 13 points and three game-winning goals with Clarkson last season. Baylee will have a chance to contribute as a freshman on a Gophers defense losing three seniors from last yearâÄôs team. This is the first time the sisters have played against each other competitively. âÄúIâÄôm nervous but also excited at the same time, because itâÄôs a new experience,âÄù Baylee said of playing her sister. âÄúItâÄôs definitely an exciting way to start out the season.âÄù The sisters grew up on an 800-acre farm in Kyle, Saskatchewan playing hockey at their local rink and pond. Living on a farm with many other kids meant a steady supply of pick-up game talent, and the two sisters developed a strong relationship learning the game together.âÄú âÄúI really look up to her,âÄù Baylee said. âÄúSheâÄôs my older sister and my best friend.âÄù Of course, like most siblings who grew up playing together, the rivalry is there. âÄúWe definitely get along, but also weâÄôre very competitive toward each other just because we both play hockey and weâÄôre both on good teams,âÄù Gillanders said. For coach Brad Frost, that means an extra relationship to manage on the ice. âÄúI think the emotions are going to be there but weâÄôll do the best to keep her as calm as possible and help her play her game,âÄù Frost said. The GillandersâÄô parents will be at the games but wonâÄôt cheer for either side. While Clarkson earned an NCAA tournament birth last season after a 23-12-5 season, the Golden Knights lost all three games against the Gophers, including a stinging 3-2 overtime loss in the NCAA quarterfinals. Senior Emily West scored the winning goal for the Gophers in that game. âÄúI expect probably a little vengeance on their part,âÄù West said. âÄúThey want to get back at us for last year.âÄù Added Frost: âÄúTheyâÄôll be really hungry, and theyâÄôll want to beat us. IâÄôm sure there will be a little hang over from last year in their minds as to wanting to come out strong against us and thatâÄôs to be expected.âÄù While the path to an NCAA tournament berth begins in earnest when the WCHA season starts up, a solid non-conference showing with a road win over a top-ten team can only help. âÄúOften times, as it gets down to the end, a lot of teams that we are playing in those non-conference games are teams that weâÄôre really fighting for a spot in the top eight of the NCAAs,âÄù Frost said. Frost has not yet named a starting goaltender for the series but expects that both Alyssa Grogan and Noora Raty will get time in between the posts. Frost also expects first team All-American defenseman Anne Schleper to be ready to go for the game Friday. Schleper practiced Monday after sitting out the exhibition opener Sunday against Manitoba.