Gophers ready to watch old teammates

Minnesota players will have a very close eye on the Olympics this year.

by Betsy Helfand

In the upcoming weeks, hundreds of millions of people around the world will tune in to the Olympics.

And the members of the Gophers women’s hockey team are no different.

There’s a special tie for the players, though, as past and present friends and teammates will compete in Sochi, Russia.

Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said it was surreal to watch players he’s coached in the Olympics.

“Prior to me coaching here, I didn’t know any Olympians,” he said. “So now, to all of a sudden over the last few Olympics … have players that we’ve coached and helped develop … is pretty neat.”

The current United States Olympic roster has strong ties to the Gophers.

That roster features former players Megan Bozek, Anne Schleper and Gigi Marvin along with current student-athletes Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein.

On top of that, former Gophers goaltender Noora Räty and defenseman Mira Jalosuo will compete for Finland.

And Finland’s first opponent is none other than the U.S.

Minnesota captain Bethany Brausen said that game is going to be extra special to watch.

“I think that what ultimately I’d want to see is Noora play really, really well, but I’d still want the U.S. to get the win,” Brausen said.

Frost, who has lived both in the U.S. and Canada, said his rooting interest in the women’s game lies squarely with the U.S. and Finland.

But picking one over the other isn’t as easy.

“It’s kind of like you’re watching your children there, and when you’ve got children on both teams, it becomes a little difficult as to who to root for,” Frost said. “I know they’re excited to play each other.”

Because of the time difference between Minnesota and Sochi, many of the games will be played in the early hours of the morning.

Frost said he hasn’t figured out if he’ll DVR the games or stay up to watch them. For the members of the team, it’s less likely.

Senior defenseman Baylee Gillanders said she didn’t think staying up until 3 a.m. to watch the game live was in the cards.

After all, the Gophers have classes and games of their own to concentrate on.

“Having these three very important weekends coming up, sleep is pretty important for us right now,” Gillanders said.

The games will be shown tape-delayed in the U.S., and the plan is for players to watch as soon as they can.

But in order to stay in the dark about the result of the games, staying away from social media is imperative.

“We’re going to have to try to stay off Twitter and all that, so we don’t see the scores when we’re trying to watch it during the day,” Gillanders said.

Though they might not watch the games live, the team’s excitement hasn’t wavered.

“I’ve been counting down the days,” Brausen said. “I can’t wait.”

Gillanders said they’re all very excited and proud of the teammates they’ve played with that will compete in the Olympics.

The U.S. and Canada are two of the favorites in the competition and could meet up in the gold medal game. That poses an interesting conflict for a few Canadian Gophers.

That includes Gillanders, who stayed relatively mum on the possibility of the two teams going against each other.

“It would be hard for me to even say because you never know who’s going to see it,” Gillanders said. “There are quite a few Gophers on the USA team, so I’m definitely going to be rooting for those girls.”

Still, no matter the outcome, Frost has a message for the players he’s coached in the past.

“The last message to them was just [to] enjoy the heck out of it and that we’re really proud of them, and we’re cheering them on,” Frost said.