Darwitz ready for captain mission

The former Minnesota player heads to Vancouver hoping to bring back hockey gold.

John Hageman

Former Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey standout Natalie Darwitz will find herself in a familiar role come February, as she was named captain of the U.S. WomenâÄôs National Team for the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver. Darwitz will be participating in her third Olympics next month and was voted by her teammates to hopefully lead Team USA to its first gold medal since 1998. âÄúObviously I was very excited and honored,âÄù Darwitz said. âÄúI have been a part of a lot of great leaders and learned from them.âÄù The Eagan, Minn ., native became the youngest member to play for the U.S. WomenâÄôs National Team in history in 1999, when she was just 15. Darwitz moved up the ranks over the years and was the team captain for two International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship teams in 2008 and 2009. âÄúI think my team knew I had the experience and leadership responsibility previously, so they felt comfortably, hopefully, with naming me again,âÄù Darwitz said. During her time at Minnesota, Darwitz led the Gophers to their only two national championships in 2004 and 2005 and holds team records for career points (246) and assists (144) in just three years with Minnesota. Darwitz came back last season to become an assistant coach, a position she plans to return to next fall. âÄúIâÄôm excited to come back next year and be behind the bench again.âÄù Previous captains of the WomenâÄôs National Team include former Minnesota player Krissy Pohl in 2006, who is the only Gophers athlete to win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for the nationâÄôs top womenâÄôs hockey play er in 2005. Darwitz looks to follow in the footsteps of Pohl and other captains she has played with by letting her actions do the talking. âÄúIâÄôm not the most vocal person out there, but I lead by example and try to do the right things on and off the ice,âÄù Darwitz said. âÄúI definitely wanted the leadership role for sure.âÄù In all likelihood, Darwitz will have to lead Team USA past the Canadians in Vancouver, who have given the Americans fits in run-up to the Olympic Games. Canada won all three matchups during the Quest Tour . But Darwitz said that has not changed the teamâÄôs mindset. âÄúOur goal is a gold medal,âÄù Darwitz said. âÄúHopefully this time we can just follow through with that.âÄù Darwitz and Team USA will face China on Feb. 14 to kick off their Olympic run .