Gophers women’s hockey Bench, Brown and Knowles returning for the 2021-2022 season

All three accepted the additional season of eligibility granted by the NCAA.

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Olivia Knowles (Left), Lauren Bench (Middle) and Emily Brown (Right) celebrate the Gophers season opener 4-0 victory over Ohio State University on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel of Gopher Athletics.

Michael Lyne

Gophers women’s hockey’s Lauren Bench, Emily Brown and Olivia Knowles will return to Ridder Arena for the 2021-22 season after all accepting the additional season of eligibility granted by the NCAA as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are so excited to have these three super seniors back for another year,” Gophers head coach Brad Frost said in the email announcement. “They are wonderful hockey players and great representatives of our program.”

The Gophers will retain one of their co-captains in Brown, one of their assistant captains in Knowles and their starting goalie in Bench from last season.

Lauren Bench – Goaltender (Graduate Student)

Bench joined the Gophers last season after spending the majority of her collegiate goaltending career at Bemidji State.

In 2020-21, Bench appeared in 15 games for the Gophers, where she started in goal for 14 of them, posting an overall record of 9-5-0 with two shutouts.

The Eagan native’s .920 save percentage ranked third in the WCHA and her 2.26 goals-against average ranked fourth.

“Having the opportunity to play for the University of Minnesota this last year has been a dream come true,” Bench said in the email. “Support from Gopher fans near and far has made this experience one I will never forget and never want to end, which is why I am extremely grateful to rep the Maroon and Gold for another year.”

After a fantastic season, Bench earned a spot on the HCA Women’s Hockey Goalie of the Year Award Watch List.

The Gophers goaltending veteran also played a magnificent month of hockey in November, posting an overall record of 3-1-0. She led all WCHA goaltenders with a 0.962 save percentage and 1.26 goals-against average, earning her National Goaltender of the Month and WCHA Goaltender of the Month.

Emily Brown – Defense (Fifth Year)

Brown led all Gophers defense in points with 12 (three goals, nine assists) in 20 games as a co-captain last season. Her 12 points ranked third among WCHA defense. She also tied for second on the team with 27 blocked shots.

“Being a Gophers women’s hockey player has been a dream of mine from the first time I had a stick in my hands,” Brown said in the email. “These last four years have been everything I could have hoped for and more. I have been challenged to become the best student, hockey player, and person I can be day in and day out. Throughout this process, I have gained a second family. I am so grateful to have received an additional year to wear the ‘M’ on my chest and live out my dream alongside my best friends.”

Last season, the Blaine native earned All-WCHA Second Team honors and tied for the most power-play points among WCHA defense with four.

Olivia Knowles – Defense (Fifth Year)

Serving as an assistant captain last season, Knowles tied for seventh among WCHA defense with nine points (four goals, five assists) as she also appeared in 20 games for the Gophers.

“The past four years have been nothing short of incredible. Being a Gopher is a privilege, and I would never take a moment for granted,” Knowles said in the email. “With that being said, I’m very blessed to be back for a fifth year in Minneapolis to play the sport I love with the people I love.”

The Gophers will get their blocked shots leader back in the Campbell River, British Columbia native after she led the Gophers with 33 blocked shots last season.

What’s up Next

The Gophers women’s hockey team will open their 2021-22 campaign against Ohio State University at Ridder Arena on Friday, Oct. 1 and Saturday, Oct. 2, as they search for the program’s eighth national title.