Senior Maggie Souba knew she wanted to play hockey at Minnesota before it even had a women’s team.
Souba started playing hockey in the fourth grade and eventually she was named first team all state as a captain for Moorhead High School.
Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said Souba’s versatility made her a good recruit.
“When we recruited her, we looked at her as somebody who we thought we could use either at forward or at defense,” Halldorson said.
After three years with Souba on the roster, Halldorson’s recruiting plan has worked out well for the team.
The defenseman has a career plus/minus rating of plus 10 as of last weekend’s Minnesota State series, in which the Gophers swept both games.
Souba and the defense allowed just three goals from the Mavericks in the two-game series, proving that the defense can hold its own.
Souba started her Minnesota career sharing time between forward and defenseman throughout her first two seasons.
In her junior season, Souba saw limited ice time as a forward before missing part of the season because of illness.
This season, with the defense looking thin with only three returning players and two incoming freshmen, Souba found herself being moved back to defenseman.
“I just hope I can bring some experience and some physical play to the defense,” Souba said.
She will become the oldest member of the unit, with junior Anya Miller and sophomores Dagney Willey and Melanie Gagnon also bringing experience to the defense.
“That’s just how the numbers worked out,” Souba said. “We needed six defensemen and we only had five, so I moved back.”
Unlike other sports, a position change in hockey isn’t a life-changing move, especially in Souba’s case.
“I think that because she has played both positions, it wasn’t a difficult adjustment,” Halldorson said. “When you haven’t played as a defenseman for a while, there is a little getting used to.”
Souba said different styles of thinking and new responsibilities are the two main changes that come with the switch.
“As a forward playing in the defensive zone, you’re supposed to think defensively first anyways,” she said.
The senior said her teammates and coaches have been a big help in the transition back to the blueline.
“The returning players have been great help when I have questions,” Souba said. “(Coach Brad) Frost has been really good at answering my questions too, helping me with what I’m doing well and what I need to work on.”
Frost, who has been with the team for seven years, is Minnesota’s defensive coach along with a slew of other duties.
In his first year as associate head coach, Frost has had the task of replacing three seniors from last season’s defensive unit.
It’s an inexperienced but improving defense that heads to No. 1 Wisconsin for a two-game series this weekend.
Halldorson said she expects Souba to lead the defense in Madison.
“Souba’s strength is that she is smart and steady, and that is what we need out of our defensemen,” Halldorson said.
Junior forward Erica McKenzie, who has played with Souba for two years coming into this season, said Souba is just as much a team player off the ice as she is on it.
“Off the ice, Souba’s a great friend, someone to talk to,” McKenzie said. “On the ice, she is a contributor, an all-around team player.”