A Minnesota monopoly: Gophers’ run on state’s top talent continues

The Gophers have landed the state’s last eight Ms. Hockey award winners.

Chris Lempesis

Winners of the prestigious Ms. Hockey award, which is given each year to the top high school senior in the state, could come from anywhere in Minnesota.

Lately, they’ve ended up at the same place: on Minnesota’s women’s hockey team.

The top-ranked Gophers (29-1-2, 24-0-2 WCHA) have now landed the last eight winners of the award after Warroad High School’s Gigi Marvin was given the honor Sunday.

Marvin committed to Minnesota in November.

“It’s just an outstanding program,” Marvin said. “I can’t wait to become a part of it.”

Marvin will join a roster that currently boasts four previous winners: junior Krissy Wendell (2000), junior Ashley Albrecht (2002), sophomore Andrea Nichols (2003) and freshman Erica McKenzie (2004).

Renee Curtin, of Roseville, Minn., won Ms. Hockey in 2001 and came to Minnesota but never actually played a game after being medically disqualified in June 2002. Also, in 2001, goaltender Jody Horak was named senior goalie of the year – an award created in 1999 as the Ms. Hockey for netminders.

Marvin – whose family members are actually North Dakota fans – considered Harvard and Dartmouth but said Minnesota was always at the top of her list.

“It’s where my heart was,” she said. “I just felt so at home when I was there.”

The past winners agreed. They said their choices basically boiled down to Minnesota and “everyone else.”

“Growing up in Minnesota, most people want to become a Gopher,” Wendell said. “For me, it was a no-brainer.”

As for why the players put Minnesota ahead at the time of their college search, the answer was pretty much the same: everything.

Location, facilities, team members and coaches were all mentioned as things that brought the players to Minnesota.

Coach Laura Halldorson said the program’s recent successes as well as the long tradition of the men’s hockey team have also led to players feeling this way.

“Gopher hockey, in general, I think is very strong in the state of Minnesota,” she said.

And Halldorson has made that a hallmark of her recruiting philosophy. The women’s program’s main recruiting focus since its inaugural 1997-98 season has been to land the best players in the state.

Halldorson said this is becoming tougher to do now, because the number of good players in the state is ever-increasing.

Add the continuing growth of women’s college hockey across the nation, and it’s easy to see why Halldorson’s task is daunting.

The Ms. Hockey winners who have become Gophers said they certainly do see the difficulty.

“It’s just unbelievable that the coaches (go for) the top recruit or the top player in Minnesota and they’ve been successful in getting all of them,” McKenzie said.