Bills, Brodt key in unlocking women’s hockey depth

Brett Angel

During the ride back from Duluth on Saturday night, Minnesota women’s hockey coach Laura Halldorson was given a handwritten note passed up from the back of the team bus.

The note politely requested the team be given a day off from practice Monday and asked the Gophers’ head coach to check one of two boxes marked ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

“(Senior captain) Ronda (Curtin) thought she’d be funny,” Halldorson joked.

By the time the bus reached Minneapolis, however, Halldorson caved in and agreed to grant the request, giving her team both Sunday and Monday off.

Curtin and the rest of the Gophers can thank two people in particular for the extra day of rest – teammates Kelsey Bills and Chelsey Brodt, who scored the final two goals in Minnesota’s 4-2 comeback win over No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday.

With forwards Krissy Wendell (fractured collarbone) and Kristy Oonincx (suspended) unavailable, Halldorson knew she would need someone else to contribute offensively for Minnesota to have a chance against the Bulldogs, but Bills and Brodt might have been the most unlikely duo of all.

Bills, an alternate captain on the team, had tallied just six points all year before scoring the game-winning goal in the biggest win of the Gophers’ season.

“I think I surprised myself a little bit,” Bills said. “It was hands down the biggest goal of my career.”

Minnesota assistant coach Brad Frost said he can remember thinking Bills should have passed the puck before watching the junior from Carstairs, Alberta, fly past the Minnesota-Duluth defense and beat goalie Patricia Sautter for the go-ahead score.

The Gophers received their final goal from an equally improbable source just 1:38 later when Brodt scored her first career goal with Minnesota.

“It was just amazing,” Brodt said. “Especially scoring my first goal against our rival.”

Brodt lit the lamp in just her second game as a forward after being promoted to right wing on the team’s first line last week.

“I’ve never played forward ever in my whole life,” said Brodt. “Whatever I have to do for the team, that’s fine, but I didn’t know if they’d want to keep me up there after seeing me practice.”

Frost said it’s especially rewarding for the coaches to see unheralded players like Bills and Brodt earn a place in the spotlight.

“They’re two great kids,” Frost said. “And both are very deserving.”

Halldorson said she hasn’t yet decided if the lines will stay the same for the Gophers’ series against Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend.

“As of now, Chelsey is still playing up front,” Halldorson said.

Whatever role she’s asked to play, Brodt said she’ll be ready.

“I kind of miss the blue line,” she said. “But I’m fine with it. I’m having fun.”

Back to Mariucci

Before practice Tuesday, the Gophers moved their equipment back to their old locker room at Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota will practice at Mariucci for the rest of the week and play Saturday’s game against Minnesota State-Mankato there as well.

Ridder Arena will host the Minnesota Girls State High School Hockey Tournament beginning Thursday.

The Gophers will then return to Ridder for the second game of their series with the Mavericks Sunday afternoon.

Brett Angel covers women’s hockey and

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