Stecklein gives Gophers stability

The defenseman participated in the 2014 Olympics for the United States.

Defense Lee Stecklein snatches the puck from Minnesota State University Mankatos Katie Johnson on Saturday at Ridder Arena.

Daily File Photo, Juliet Farmer

Defense Lee Stecklein snatches the puck from Minnesota State University Mankato’s Katie Johnson on Saturday at Ridder Arena.

Grant Donald

Redshirt sophomore alternate captain Lee Stecklein doesn’t score often for the Gophers, but when she does, many take notice.

“The team always cheers a little harder for the people who don’t score as much, like me,” the defenseman said.

However, over the last five games, Stecklein has given her teammates plenty to cheer for, as the Olympian has recorded her first two goals of the season.

But arguably the person most excited about Stecklein’s recent offensive outburst is head coach Brad Frost, who hopes these last few weeks won’t be the only time Stecklein’s name appears on the score sheet.

“Hopefully it will open [Lee’s] eyes to the fact that she can actually put the puck in the net,” Frost said. “I think she is so focused on the defensive end that she doesn’t realize that her shot has really improved over the last couple of years and that she has more offensive instincts than she thinks.”

Over her career with the Gophers, Stecklein has scored five goals and recorded 25 assists — significantly lower numbers than fellow defenseman Rachel Ramsey.

But the low offensive numbers don’t bother Stecklein in the least because, to her, defense always comes first.

“If the team needs me to score and I’m not, then it bothers me,” Stecklein said. “But with the offense we have, I need to focus more on keeping the puck out of our net.”

Defensively speaking, Stecklein is one of the best in the business and competed for the United States in last year’s Olympics.

“I think night in and night out, she is our most consistent defenseman,” Frost said. “She is so steady. Each and every shift, I know I can rely on her, and as a coach, that is all you can ask for.”

Stecklein’s presence on the ice is not only a main reason for why the Gophers have the second-best defense in the nation, but it also raises her teammates’ level of play.

“[Lee] has a lot of pull in the locker room and on the ice, so she is a great person to have around,” Ramsey said. “And then when you have someone who can run a power play as well as she does, it just adds a little something to the team.”

Lorence probable for the North Dakota series

After having to sit out the majority of Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Ohio State because of an injury, it appears the senior alternate captain Meghan Lorence will be able to play this weekend against North Dakota.

Frost said Lorence has been able to practice fully this week.

He said he “imagines that she will be able to play this weekend.”

Sophomore Paige Haley, on the other hand, is not as lucky.

After suffering an arm injury after an illegal check in the third period last Saturday, Frost ruled Haley out for the rivalry series this weekend.