Gophers, USA earn gold in China

Three represented Minnesota at the World Championships.

Brian Deutsch

Junior forward Gigi Marvin was happily displaying her latest clothing accessory as she went to class this week.

No, it wasn’t some fancy jewelry she received for her birthday last month – although it might be just as valuable to her in both a literal and sentimental sense.

The women’s hockey forward from Warroad, Minn., was wearing the gold medal she won last weekend along with the U.S. Women’s National Team after defeating Canada 4-3 in the IIHF Women’s World Championship last week in Harbin, China.

“I wear this medal everywhere,” Marvin said yesterday. “Our team was just so ecstatic to win. It’s such a great feeling to not only be World Champions, but we smoked Canada as well.”

Marvin, along with fellow junior and defenseman Rachael Drazan and former Gophers forward Natalie Darwitz, made up the Minnesota component of the U.S. team.

Team USA captured its second-ever gold medal in the nine-team competition – although the Red, White and Blue have never finished below second place in 11 appearances.

Team USA dominated in the preliminary round, beating Germany 8-1 and Switzerland 7-1, but fell 1-0 in overtime to Finland in the first qualifying round.

Marvin said there was a noticeable jump in competition for the game against the Fins, adding that they are one of the top four teams in the world along with the U.S., Canada and Sweden.

“Their goalie played hot, and we couldn’t get a puck by her,” said Marvin, who roomed with Wisconsin goalie Jessie Vetter on the two week trip. “But everything happens for a reason, and I think losing that game was for the better, because the way we came out the next two games was unreal.”

The U.S. bounced back last Thursday and qualified for the medal round with a 4-2 win over the Canadians before last Saturday’s rematch with Canada in the championship game.

“We’re extremely proud of our team and the way they performed throughout the entire tournament,” Team USA coach Jackie Barto said in a release. “We came out and built on the energy we established on Thursday – it was a great win for Team USA.”

Marvin finished the tournament with two assists and a goal while Drazan tallied three assists in her first tournament appearance.

Minnesota’s newly announced head coach Brad Frost, who Marvin called a “fence-sitter,” as he is originally from Canada, didn’t seem to mind that he will have two gold medal winners on roster next year – even if they are from the U.S.

“It’s awesome. I mean, it’s a great experience for them. How many people get to go to China and play hockey? Not too many.”

Darwitz takes home MVP

Former Gophers forward and University alum Natalie Darwitz was named the Championship’s Most Valuable Player after tallying a tournament-high 10 points.

The Eagan, Minn., native netted two goals in the finals matchup with Canada, including the eventual game-winner.

“We also had exceptional leadership from our veterans,” Barto said. “Their experience was very helpful in this team reaching its goal of winning a gold medal.”

The seven-time Team USA forward, who was the youngest ever American skater when she made the team at age 15 in 1999, now ranks fifth in career points for Team USA with 39 tallies in 30 games.