Women’s hockey hits the weights to help out with the skates

Specifically tailored workout regimens for players mean a bigger, faster, stronger team.

Noah Seligman

When opponents prepare to face Minnesota’s second-ranked women’s hockey team, the Gophers’ speed is their number one concern.

While speed cannot be taught, it can certainly be coached. That is why the Gophers regularly visit the weight room to work on developing an extra gear.

“Performance-wise, the biggest thing is making (the athletes) as fast as possible,” said Cal Dietz, associate director of strength and conditioning. “To become fast, you have to become strong and fast at the same time, and you do that by lifting weights and doing a combination of plyometrics and agility drills.”

Minnesota does range-of-motion exercises to maintain flexibility during the team’s training.

The idea is to turn a weakness into a strength. Every athlete does the same exercises, but each skater has a workout tailored to her specific needs.

Regardless of the routine, the end goal is always the same.

“Speed kills in any sport,” Dietz said. “We want to make the whole athlete as complete as we can.”

The Gophers do running and agility drills coupled with footwork exercise, cone work and weight exercises.

Next week, players will start working with a skating treadmill to improve their skating technique.

The biggest challenge is keeping the team rested. The season started in September, and the Gophers want to be in Providence, R.I., at the end of March for the Frozen Four.

“We want to keep the quality of work high but decrease the amount of work over months to keep the team fresh,” Dietz said. “We want to create an athlete, not a worker.”

The players recognize the importance of weight lifting and its benefits.

“It maintains your muscle and builds it,” senior forward Jerilyn Glenn said. “That makes you faster and quicker, and less likely to become injured or stretch a muscle.”

Freshman defender Danielle Ashley agreed.

“I’ve definitely seen my speed level get higher and higher with the weights,” Ashley said. “I love it. This has given me the opportunity to stay on track and make sure I get all of my training in.”

An added bonus of a rigorous weight lifting regimen is an image overhaul for the team. The Gophers want to be known for more than just their speed.

“That should be in our head often,” Ashley said, “to let the opponent know that we’re not just a soft, fast-skating team, but if they want to dish it out we can take it.”

The motto Dietz tells the team is “bigger, faster, stronger.” Two afternoons each week, that is the primary focus for Minnesota.

Gophers drop in polls

For the first time in 14 weeks Minnesota was not voted the top team in the country.

The Gophers are ranked second in the USA Today/AHM poll and third in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll.

WCHA opponents Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State-Mankato are ranked fourth, fifth and 10th, respectively, in the USCHO poll.