Group of five seniors preparing for fourth Frozen Four in four seasons with Minnesota

After failing to win a game in the first two, this year’s senior class is looking to repeat.

Chris Lempesis

For most women’s collegiate hockey players, playing in the Frozen Four is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But for five players on Minnesota’s women’s hockey team, it’s all they’ve ever known.

Senior forwards Kelly Stephens, Stacy Troumbly and Noelle Sutton and goaltenders Jody Horak and Brenda Reinen have played in women’s college hockey’s premier event in each of their four years at Minnesota.

On a team that’s no longer blown away by many things, this special feat has not gone unnoticed for the seniors.

Or their families and friends.

“My family’s calling me, and everybody e-mails me, (saying) ‘four in four,’ ” Troumbly said. “Not many people can say that.

“To go four years in a row is amazing.”

After failing to win a game on the big stage its freshman and sophomore years, the group won its first national championship last season and expects to repeat this year.

Coach Laura Halldorson also took note of the achievements of the group.

Halldorson said the Gophers’ recent success probably wouldn’t have been possible if the five weren’t around.

While everyone understands that what the five have been able to accomplish is special, the players said it’s not really something they’ve spent too much time thinking about.

“I’ve just always expected (to be in the Frozen Four),” Horak said. “This program’s always expected to get there and to win.”

Another reason for the lack of reminiscing is the Gophers’ season isn’t over yet.

Top-ranked Minnesota (34-2-2, 25-1-2 WCHA) faces Dartmouth in the national semifinals Friday.

The players said they are trying to treat this week like any other.

“I’m not very good at reflecting right away, especially during the season,” Stephens said. “It’s usually more something I take a look at afterwards and appreciate.”

These players, obviously, are not new to the Frozen Four experience.

What some might not remember is they are also not new to playing the event in Durham, N.H.

The city hosted the Frozen Four during the group’s freshman season in 2001-02. The players do not remember this trip fondly.

The Gophers battled through both injury and illness, going winless in their two games. They lost to Brown 2-1 in the semifinals before tying Niagara 2-2 in the third-place game.

Stephens said she had one of the rougher experiences.

“I was extremely sick when I was out there,” she said. “I was dehydrated. I was throwing up. Yeah, I was a mess.”

Although that trip was a long time ago and Minnesota has had considerable success since then, the five seniors have not forgotten about it.

The group members said they would love nothing more than to further distance themselves from that experience and close out their already stellar careers on top.

“We just want to end it with a title and see where our lives take us after that,” Horak said.