Senior Cara Piazza has already surpassed her point total from last year with 15 points so far, but it is her work with teammates that has made head coach Brad Frost happy.
“Cara is the type of player and person that cares deeply about other people,” Frost said. “I know that for our younger players, they feel really comfortable talking about hockey, but also about life as well.”
The Gophers are playing in an Olympics year, which means that two of their leading scorers from last year decided to forgo this school year for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Sarah Potomak and Kelly Pannek combined for 115 points last year.
Now, the Gophers have been forced to play younger players, and returning starters, like Piazza, have moved into bigger roles. The three highest returning scorers from last year were Sydney Baldwin, Caitlin Reilly and Piazza. They combined for 45 points.
Piazza’s new role includes sharing the captain duties with Baldwin. The duo has roomed together since freshman year. Piazza said they work well together because they are constantly coming up with different ways to approach the team. She also said having Baldwin take care of the defensive end while she takes care of the offensive end works really well.
“There is always a balance and there is never really a fight about what is right and I think that is really helpful to be able to have different viewpoints,” Piazza said. “But be able to work together as a team, overall, it has been a really enjoyable experience.”
Piazza said she has had the benefit of learning and growing under captains before her. She wants to take what captains like Lee Stecklein and Rachel Ramsey did for her and add her own flavor to it. Piazza said she always felt like Ramsey was there to show support for her.
Piazza strives to become that for many of the younger players on the team, who have seen increased time due to the Olympics year. Reilly said Piazza is a great leader and her hard work trickles down throughout the team from the senior class to the freshman class
“[She] really puts a stamp on what this program is all about,“ Reilly said.
Piazza is coming off of a slow junior year in which she only scored 14 points. In her sophomore year, she scored 34. Now, with Piazza coming back strong in her senior year, the Gophers look to continue their recent success.
The team went on a nine-game win streak before losing to Bemidji on Saturday to split that series. Piazza said it is the balance of the team that has granted them such success and is not worried about the loss to Bemidji. She is confident they will bounce back.
“Everyone has been playing really well... a lot of people have a similar amount of points, it is not just one person or one line, but probably nine forwards that are producing about the same,” Piazza said. “Now, people aren’t worried about their points, but our team winning.”