Emily Brown makes hockey and science work together

Brown is majoring in mechanical engineering while competing with the Gophers.

Defender Emily Brown looks to pass the puck up the ice at Ridder Arena on Friday, Oct. 19. The Gophers beat Ohio State 3-0.

Image by Jack Rodgers

Defender Emily Brown looks to pass the puck up the ice at Ridder Arena on Friday, Oct. 19. The Gophers beat Ohio State 3-0.

by Erik Nelson

Defender Emily Brown may try to ignore it on the ice, but science has been a presence in her life for the past few years.

During her senior year at Blaine High School, Brown took an engineering course. That was the event that pushed her to pursue mechanical engineering as her college major. 

“They have this pre-engineering program where you take a bunch of prep classes,” Brown said. “That’s what first inspired me because I didn’t really know what engineering necessarily was before that. Taking those classes and realizing that, ‘Hey, I like math and science’ made me want to pursue it [as a major].”

Brown said the toughest part about being in the University’s mechanical engineering program is scheduling classes while trying to avoid conflict with her hockey career. 

“They only offer them once a semester,” she said. “They like to choose 2 p.m. for their classes, which is when we practice. Fitting things in is tough. Once you do that, the toughest part is surviving. People say it’s hard, but it’s also fun.”

When she’s not solving problems in her engineering courses, Brown is racking up points from the blue line for the Gophers. Brown is Minnesota’s second-highest scoring defender this season behind Patti Marshall. She has scored two goals this season and has seven points.

Head coach Brad Frost said Brown can be physical even though she isn’t the biggest defender.

“It’s the style that she plays,” Frost said. “She loves to use her body to separate players from the puck. She’s got a great stick deflecting passes and shots. She’s somebody that has improved this year and has been one of our best [defenders].”

Center Taylor Wente played against Brown when Wente played for Maple Grove High School. Maple Grove and Blaine are both in the Northwest Suburban Conference. 

Wente said Brown is calm on the ice.

“When you try to go against her going to the puck, she’s super smart and knows what she’s doing with the puck,” Wente said. “We need people that have confidence with the puck.”

Last season, Brown had someone she could talk to about engineering. Former Gophers’ center Cara Piazza was also a mechanical engineering major. Brown said when she had a question about engineering, she would ask Piazza and they bounced ideas off each other.

“It would get weird in the locker room,” Brown said. “People would [say], ‘oh my goodness.’ Usually when we get to the rink, it’s all hockey.”

Brown isn’t the only one in hockey excited about engineering. The NHL launched a program called Future Goals to mark the league’s centenary in 2017 dedicated to motivating students to pursue careers in STEM. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. According to the Future Goals’ website, a majority of students lose interest in STEM before beginning their sophomore year of high school. 

Brown said she can’t apply mechanical engineering to hockey all the time because she could lose concentration on the ice.

“Sometimes, I think about it on the ice at practice,” she said. “I’ll be like, ‘Why did that bounce that way?’ I’ll be like, ‘Oh, coefficient of friction’ and stuff like that comes to my head. I’ll [say] ‘Holy cow, let’s have a reality check and come back to hockey.’ I don’t think I do that on the ice or on the bench.”