Players take different paths to arrive at the University

Young prospects have to decide between high school and club hockey.

Grant Donald

As she grew up in Oklahoma, junior Brook Garzone’s hockey options were limited.

Because of that, Garzone decided to take her talents to Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, a Minnesota boarding school known for attracting top hockey stars from around the nation.

“In Oklahoma, I was the only girl hockey player [my age],” Garzone said. “I needed to make a decision on where I wanted to go, and when I visited Shattuck, I fell in love with it.”

Unlike Garzone, senior forward Meghan Lorence found her way onto the Ridder Arena ice by playing for her high school team in New Brighton, Minn. Young players often choose between those two paths — either high school or club hockey — before entering the collegiate level.

“Playing for Irondale, they obviously weren’t the best youth association and high school team growing up,” Lorence said. “But I played with my friends that I grew up with, so I couldn’t imagine leaving that behind.”

Both Lorence and Garzone reached the same end point at Minnesota, playing on one of the best teams in the nation, but they ventured down two completely different paths to get there.

While only a few Gophers competed for teams other than their high schools’, many players nationwide come up through club-like systems.

“Hockey is starting to pick up all around the country, but it is still very new and [hasn’t had] a lot of exposure for kids like Brook,” head coach Brad Frost said. “It was an opportunity for her to improve her skill and be noticed. It’s a huge benefit for kids like that.”

But for most of Minnesota’s players, they arrived after playing for their high school teams back home.

Frost said many of Minnesota’s high school students who sign with the Gophers have wanted to play for the team since they learned how to skate.

“[Minnesota high school kids] have been coming to our games for a long time,” Frost said. “The players that are on some of those club teams are sometimes harder to get because they have seen other campuses.”

The main difference between club and high school teams is their schedules.

A typical Minnesota women’s high school schedule runs from November to February, whereas a team like Shattuck-St. Mary’s plays from September to April.

The club teams are also usually more talented from top to bottom than the high school teams, since they take in players nationwide.

“You can definitely tell who played [club hockey] and who didn’t. It is just a different style of play,” Garzone said. “Once you start to get the hang of things, it all begins to come together, and it isn’t as noticeable.”

While many people think club hockey players get more exposure to various college teams around the nation, Lorence said the increased exposure doesn’t outweigh the memories created by playing with childhood friends.

“If you are a good player, obviously college coaches are going to find you regardless of where you go to school,” Lorence said. “I’ve learned a lot with my experiences with Irondale, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”