Goalie Peters waits in the wings

Redshirt freshman Sidney Peters has played in three games this season.

Grant Donald

When redshirt freshman goaltender Sidney Peters arrived on campus last year, she was fresh off a 70-game season.

However, in the year and a half that she has been a member of the Gophers women’s hockey team, she has only played in three games.

“Hockey has been such a big thing for me my entire life, and to be told that I wasn’t going to be able to play in a game for a whole year was hard news,” Peters said.

Before her freshman season began, head coach Brad Frost and his staff decided it would be best for the program for Peters to redshirt her first year on campus, allowing her to maintain her four years of eligibility.

Frost had already named then-sophomore Amanda Leveille as the team’s starting goaltender, but he still wanted to get the most out of the very talented Peters. Redshirting her allowed him to do just that.

“Anytime you get to sit and watch is beneficial,” Frost said. “Academically, it should help her start on some master’s [degree] classes, and also it should help us down the road from an athletic standpoint.”

It wasn’t easy for the Geneva, Ill., native, as Peters had to battle her own competitive nature and trust that this was the best thing for her future at Minnesota.

“Redshirting is difficult, and that’s probably the hardest thing I have ever had to go through,” Peters said. “It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I’m glad I did it, and I feel a lot more prepared for this year.”

While Peters is now eligible to participate, her playing time will still be limited over the next two years as Leveille is the seasoned veteran at the goalie position.

Because of that, Peters must take advantage of any and all of the ice time she has.

“Looking forward into next year, it is going to be another hard year because again I am going to be the younger goalie,” Peters said. “It’s going to be exciting also because once Amanda graduates, things will be different.”

Finally playing hockey

After sitting out for a year, Peters finally made her collegiate debut during the Gophers’ season opener against Penn State.

In her first career start, Peters posted a shutout in an 8-0 victory, making 15 saves in the process.

“It was incredible because when you are redshirting, all you’re thinking about is that first game and what is it going to be like,” Peters said. “Finally getting to be a part of the game when the clock actually starts and not just in the background was an incredible experience.”

However, it wasn’t until Peters’ second start against Bemidji State — almost a month later — that she felt like she finally arrived on the college hockey scene.

The game ended up going into a shootout, which the Gophers lost, but Peters said she loved the opportunity to play in a tightly contested game.

“We knew how [the Penn State game] was going to end up by the end of the first period, and with Bemidji, we were with them all the way throughout the whole game,” Peters said. “[I] actually had an influence on things, and it made it feel a little more real because the game was more intense.”

A couple of weeks ago, Peters made her third start of the season, playing the first two periods before senior goalie Shyler Sletta finished the 4-0 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato.

Moving forward, Frost acknowledged the importance of getting Peters game experience to keep the program moving in the right direction.

“It’s a hard position to be in because being a goaltender, you are playing an individual position but in a team sport,” Frost said. “Only one goaltender can play, and right now Amanda is our starter, and we will keep encouraging Sid and let her have her opportunities to play well.”

Leveille was in a similar position her freshman year, as she had to wait behind former Gophers goalie Noora Räty.

The only difference between the Gophers’ top two goalies is that Leveille didn’t have to redshirt for a year and was able to play in a few games right away.

“Last year, I can’t imagine how frustrating it had to be for [Sidney],” Leveille said. “But she pushed through it and got a lot better, and it just goes to show what type of person she is.”

There is a mutual respect between the two goalies, and on more than a couple of occasions last year, Peters turned to Leveille for advice on how to handle her unique situation.

“[Amanda] is actually one of my best friends on the team, which is hard at times because I have to put aside the fact that her and I are competing with each other,” Peters said. “It is always tough when you want something that somebody else has and you are working for it every day.”

It doesn’t seem like things will get any easier for Peters in the near future with Leveille returning for her senior season next year.

However, the young goalie knows that once she takes over, it will be that much sweeter than if the starting spot was handed to her on a silver platter.

“When you wait for something, it makes you want it that much more because you actually have to earn it,” Peters said. “It would have been nice to come into a program where I could have started right off the bat, but that’s kind of taking the easy way out. I wanted to play for a team where I would have a chance at winning the national championship.”