Depth to add fuel to Gophers title run

Minnesota brought in nine new players this offseason after a 2015 national title.

Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt handles the puck against Ohio State at Ridder Arena on Jan. 31, 2015

Holly Peterson, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt handles the puck against Ohio State at Ridder Arena on Jan. 31, 2015

by Emily Polglaze

Despite coming off of their third national title in four years, the Minnesota women’s hockey team isn’t resting on any laurels.
Many of the team’s players don’t even have any to rest on yet, as the Gophers added nine newcomers this season to round out their roster.
“The 2016 national championship trophy is still up for grabs; nobody owns that right now,” head coach Brad Frost said. “It’s not about the outcome; it’s about fulfilling and embodying our values each and every day and getting better as a team — and hopefully getting lucky at the end.”
The Gophers only lost four seniors from their roster last year, and offensively they return seven of its top 10 scorers.
Senior forward Hannah Brandt was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Preseason Player of the Year for the third season in a row and was the Gophers’ top scorer last season with 34 goals.
Junior forward Dani Cameranesi came close behind Brandt with 23 goals, but leads for assists with 42.
Minnesota has a big addition on offense in the form of Sarah Potomak, who was named the WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year.
“She’s extremely shifty. She has a great release, excellent hands; she sees the ice well, and she’s just a really complete hockey player,” Frost said. “We’re expecting big things.”
On the blue line, the Gophers have two additions in freshmen Sophie Skarzynski and Anna Barlow.Skarzynski won gold with the U.S. this year at the International Ice Hockey 
Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championships. 
Lee Stecklein, 2015 second team All-American, and Milica McMillen, 2014 second team All-American, will return to the defensive lineup along with junior Megan Wolfe and sophomore Sydney Baldwin. 
Stecklein said it’s important for the newcomers to know there is an adjustment period for everyone getting used to the tempo of college hockey.
“You think you know defense, and then you realize really quickly that we’ve got a whole new thing going here,” Stecklein said. “I’m telling the defensemen that they’re going to be overwhelmed for a bit, but it’ll take a few games to really get used to it.”
Senior goaltender Amanda Leveille also returns this season, serving as a large threat for the opposition in net. 
Last season Leveille had a 1.18 goals-against average and a save percentage of .946. 
“She’s definitely our number one,” Frost said. “She’s somebody that I know our players trust a lot, and to have somebody like that between the pipes is critical.”
Minnesota also has two transfers in sophomores Caitlin Reilly from Penn State and Nicole Schammel from Minnesota State-Mankato, though Schammel will sit the season due to WCHA transfer rules. 
Following a national championship run and being ranked the WCHA and U.S. College Hockey Organization’s No. 1 could be a lot of pressure for the team, but it’s nothing they haven’t seen before. 
“Even if we’re not number one at the time, everyone’s trying to beat us because we’re Minnesota and we’ve had a lot of success recently,” Brandt said. “But I think that just motivates us, and we just try to take it one game at a time.”