Minnesota looks for big rookie impact, veteran depth in new season

The Gophers have returned 19 players to their roster this season and have six new additions.

Gophers defenseman Lee Stecklein snatches the puck from Minnesota State-Mankatos Katie Johnson on Jan. 16, 2015 at Ridder Arena.

Daily File Photo, Juliet Farmer

Gophers defenseman Lee Stecklein snatches the puck from Minnesota State-Mankato’s Katie Johnson on Jan. 16, 2015 at Ridder Arena.

by Tommy Sletten

As the Gophers embark on a new season with different players, the team has the same goal: another national championship.

While the Minnesota women’s hockey team lost some of its star players to graduation last year, the Gophers bring new, high-caliber athletes to the ice this season who are ready to mix things up with an already loaded roster.

“We’re going to expect some pretty big things from these [players],” said head coach Brad Frost of the incoming freshmen. “Expect them to fit in really well with our whole team.”

Minnesota returns last year’s leading scorer and second team All-American senior forward and assistant captain Dani Cameranesi, as well as senior forward and assistant captain Kate Schipper, and senior defenseman and captain Lee Stecklein.

The Gophers returned 19 players this season — eight of which were among the team’s top ten scorers last year. The team also has six freshmen on the roster, all of whom could provide an impact for the reigning national champions.

Two freshmen who should pay immediate dividends to Minnesota’s success are defenseman Patti Marshall and forward Lindsay Agnew.

“They’re both going to play significant roles for us,” Frost said. “In particular Patti on the blue line [is] somebody that’s going to fit in right away.”

Marshall has achieved plenty in her career prior to joining the Gophers. The Thief River Falls, Minnesota native won three national championships with her high school, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, and won two gold medals at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships in 2015 and 2016.

Marshall will join Stecklein on the blue line, along with four returning defensemen and fellow freshman Katie Robinson.

Agnew, an Oakville, Ontario. native, looks to quickly get on the scoresheet for the Gophers and ease the pressure on experienced forwards.

Agnew saw time on the Under-18 Canadian National Team, where she won a silver medal at the 2015 IIHF U-18 World Championships.

Agnew has already been tabbed as one of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Preseason Rookies of the Year.

Other notable additions for Minnesota’s offensive contingent are forward and former U.S. Under-18 Team assistant captain Alex Woken and 2016 Minnesota Ms. Hockey semifinalist Kippin Keller.

Agnew and Marshall both credit their elder teammates as essential to helping them adjust to collegiate hockey and get comfortable with the team.

“It’s been pretty good so far, Agnew said. “All the seniors have been helping out a lot, and it makes it easy when everyone is so supportive. I think I’m fitting in more and more each game, each practice.”

Minnesota will have high expectations to live up to coming off of its seventh national championship, its fourth in five years.

“Our goal each and every day is to get better,” Frost said. “It’s early in the season, and we’re going to look like a much different team come March than we are now.”