Sophie Skarzynski plays offense and defense in Gophers Olympics year

The junior has totaled 24 points this year.

Defenseman Sophie Skarzynski passes the puck during a game against Bemidji State on Dec. 1, 2017.

Max Ostenso, Daily File Photo

Defenseman Sophie Skarzynski passes the puck during a game against Bemidji State on Dec. 1, 2017.

Max Biegert

One night, junior Sophie Skarzynski could be scoring goals from the forward position and the next night she could be blocking shots from the defenseman position. 

In a year where the Gophers have needed players to step into bigger roles, Skarzynski has shown she has been up to the challenge. Skarzynski has accrued 24 points so far with one more series to play against No. 1 Wisconsin this weekend. The junior had a total of six points last year, as she played mostly defense. She knew, coming into an Olympic year, that she had to be ready for anything that happened. 

“I have to continue to have a team-first attitude; I just want to do whatever is best for the team,” Skarzynski said. “In terms of preparation for this year, I kind of was like, ‘I got to be ready for anything.’” 

Before the season, Skarzynski was ready to take on the defensemen role on the team; however, with a non hockey-related injury to sophomore Taylor Williamson keeping her sidelined, head coach Brad Frost needed Skarzynski to move off the blue line and into an attacking role. 

“We needed another forward, but we felt that Sophie would be a really good fit,” Frost said. “For her, she was forward, defense, forward, defense all last year and now she has at least been consistently at forward and knows that [is] where she is going to be for now.”

In her sophomore season, one of Skarzynski’s offensive contributions was the game-tying third goal in the Frozen Four loss to Clarkson during the third period. 

Skarzynski was part of one national championship team in her career. She was a freshman when the Gophers won it in the 2015-16 season. In her freshman year, she played most of the season at defense. She totaled 23 block shots and had a plus/minus rating of +15. She switched to forward in February for the championship run and had totaled nine points by the end of the year. 

This year has been a different story. She has tallied 24 points this season, which is more points than her first two years combined. 

“For me it was a difficult transition, but that’s why I came here,” Skarzynski said. “The points never really matter for me, but this year has been a fun role for me being a point-maker.”  

Skarzynski also said that it has been fun battling with her sister, who plays at Yale, to see who will end up with more points. Greta Skarzynski, a freshman, has 23 points. 

The junior became someone her team looks at as a leader since the team lost some of their most prominent players to the Olympics. Senior captain Sydney Baldwin spoke to the relationships Skarzynski has on the team.

“She is such a good friend, she will drop everything and be there for someone if they need it,” Baldwin said. “She brings a spark and energy to the team on the bench and on the ice.”

The Gophers will need Skarzynski to continue to play well, as the Gophers are on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament. The team is ranked No. 7 in the country, and eight teams make the competition. 

“I think we got three really good lines; Sophie’s line was one of our best ones last weekend,” Frost said. “It will be critical for them to continue playing well.”