After losing some of his players to the 2014 Winter Olympics, head coach Brad Frost brought in a slightly larger freshman class this season.
With a relatively young roster, the team used its two exhibition games to tinker with lines and try out different players on the blue line before Friday’s season opener at Colgate.
The two preseason games also offered an opportunity for the freshmen to adjust to the collegiate game.
Freshman forward Dani Cameranesi said the games helped calm her nerves.
“I know the first and second period of the first game, when I was standing on the line, I was shaking,” she said.
Five of the Gophers’ seven freshmen saw action last weekend, and a few made their way into the scoring column.
Cameranesi and freshman forward Kate Schipper both scored two goals over the weekend, and freshman defenseman Kelsey Cline added an assist.
The only two freshmen who didn’t see the ice were Sidney Peters, a goalie, and Kate Flug, a forward who Frost said is still recovering from an injury.
“I think for the most part, they got their first this and first that under their belt, and now they can be less nervous and just be more excited,” senior captain Bethany Brausen said.
In one of the Gophers’ longest road trips of the year, they will travel to Hamilton, N.Y., to play Colgate for their first series of the regular season.
Brausen said there were little things freshmen would pick up on the first road trip of the year, such as studying habits on the road and getting acclimated to the travel schedule.
This road trip will offer another bonding experience for the team, though Frost said he thought the players were “very close right off the bat.”
“When all of a sudden they’re flying on a couple airplanes and have a little bus ride … it’s always a time for our team to get together and bond a little bit,” he said.
Frost said the freshmen always room with the upperclassmen on road trips.
“There’s a certain routine that we do every single weekend, so it’s an opportunity for them to just observe and learn how they should act,” he said.
Schipper and Cameranesi said they were excited but didn’t really know what to expect aside from who their roommate is this weekend.
“I just remember being so nervous,” Brausen said of her first road trip. “You don’t realize how much fun they are until you finally get out there and realize it’s an away trip that you’re just spending with your best friends.”
Brausen said the players try to incorporate activities when the team has downtime. A team favorite is “busaroke,” a tradition that is exactly what its name implies — karaoke on a bus.
“A lot of times, we throw the freshmen under the bus, so to speak, and we have them go first,” Brausen said. “But we all end up jumping in and doing our part. The coaches sometimes do as well.”
Brausen said “bag duty” is a lot more shared these days than when she was a freshman, and it’s on the upperclassmen to help the freshmen get acclimated.
“I remember ever since my first road trip,” she said, “they started becoming just as likable as home games because of the experience.”