3 Gophers players to represent U.S.

Minnesota will be well represented in the Four Nations Cup.

Minnesota defender Milica McMillen battles for the puck against Ohio State defender Annie Svedin on Oct. 20 at Ridder Arena.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota defender Milica McMillen battles for the puck against Ohio State defender Annie Svedin on Oct. 20 at Ridder Arena.

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers women’s hockey team won’t play another game until Nov. 16.

In the meantime, freshman defenseman Milica McMillen, senior defenseman Megan Bozek and junior forward Amanda Kessel will head to Finland to represent Team USA in the Four Nations Cup.

The Four Nations Cup is an annual tournament that pits the U.S. against Sweden, Canada and Finland.

Head coach Brad Frost said he thought it would be a great opportunity for all three of them.

“Anytime you can play with Team USA and compete against some of those top countries is an opportunity for them to represent the University of Minnesota well,” Frost said.

He also said it was a good opportunity for the players to represent themselves as “they look to try to make that Olympic team.”

McMillen was a late addition to the roster, which also includes former Gophers players Sarah Erickson and Anne Schleper.

Erickson and Schleper graduated last season following the Gophers’ NCAA title.

“It’s great to get around some of those teammates and girls that I’m not always around,” Kessel said. “It’s a fun opportunity.”

Kessel, who competed in last year’s Four Nations Cup, is the Gophers’ top goal-scorer thus far with 15 goals and ranks second on the team with 32 points.

Bozek has six goals, three of which came in the Gophers’ November 2-3 sweep against Minnesota-Duluth. She ranks third on the team with 18 points.

Bozek said the international level presents different kinds of rivalries. She said she thought Team USA’s biggest rival is Canada.

She said players have to leave “the college stuff out of the way” in order to play for Team USA.

“Just like college Division I, WCHA hockey, there’s no bad player in sight,” Bozek said, “so I think we just have to stay motivated on the task at hand.”

Bozek said she gets chills every time she puts on the USA jersey.

McMillen is fifth on the team with 12 points and is the second among defensemen to Bozek.

Kessel, who has been to Finland previously, said she was told to “bring back lots of chocolate.”

The U.S. will kick off the tournament Tuesday against Sweden. The team will play Canada on Wednesday, Finland on Friday and then in either the gold-medal or bronze-medal game on Saturday.

Last year, the U.S. defeated Canada in the shootout round to win the gold medal.

The other cup

While Kessel, Bozek and McMillen are abroad, the rest of the Gophers will compete in a lesser-known tournament: the Jeanly Cup.

The tournament started in 2003 among Gophers players. “Having the weekend off of games and not having our full team, it’s an opportunity to still get better and get on the ice but also compete and have a lot of fun, too,” Frost said.

Junior forward Sarah Davis said the intrasquad tournament is a big deal.

“We get really into it. Last year the loser had to take the luggage to Boston, like load the bus and the planes,” Davis said. “The losers were not very happy about that.”

She said last year’s tournament included a draft and two six-minute halves between the blue lines.

The tournament takes up a few days of practice, and Frost said it’s 3-on-3.

The winners get to sign their name on the Jeanly Cup, which Frost said is made of a cookie tray and a Coke box with a trophy on top.

“It’s a very prestigious trophy,” Frost said, “and everybody wants their name on it.”