When head coach Brad Frost first talked to sophomore Brook Garzone this summer about playing defense this season, she thought he was joking.
“I wasn’t really thinking about next year,” Garzone said. “He was obviously already thinking about it.”
Garzone was a defenseman growing up but played forward in high school and in her first year at Minnesota.
She has been playing on the blue line this season, but Garzone stepped back into her forward position the past two weeks for an injured teammate, embodying the versatility her team has needed this season.
“I’m glad to do whatever coach [says],” Garzone said. “I’m happy either way just to be playing.”
The Gophers already have a shorter bench this year because of the Olympics, but they’ve also been dealing with sickness and injury in the past two weeks, so players have had to step into different roles.
Minnesota freshman forward Kate Schipper, sophomore forward Maryanne Menefee and junior forward Meghan Lorence were all out of the lineup last weekend.
Frost said Tuesday that he expects Schipper back this weekend but said he was not sure about Menefee or Lorence.
Gophers freshman defenseman Kelsey Cline slid up to forward to fill Schipper’s spot last weekend.
Cline said the coaching staff talked to her earlier about the possibility of jumping up to forward because of the team’s short roster and injuries.
“They were just like, ‘… This stuff is going on. So mentally, just be ready in case,’” Cline said. “I think they were just giving me a warning, and once it actually happened … I was ready for it.”
Cline said the move last weekend was difficult because she wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. She said her linemates for that game, senior Kelly Terry and freshman Dani Cameranesi, helped her.
Garzone said moving back to defense at the beginning of the season was an adjustment, but she said Frost always tells the team to know each position so the transition is easier.
Minnesota freshman Megan Wolfe also made the switch to defense at the start of the season. She said she had never played defense before.
Garzone and Wolfe bonded over the switch.
“We kind of [kidded] around a little bit at the beginning,” Garzone said. “We looked at each other like, ‘Uh, we have no idea what we’re doing.’”
Garzone said now she and Wolfe have gotten used to the position and it’s starting to come more naturally.
Junior Jordyn Burns has also been in a position where she has had to fill in on both ends of the ice for the Gophers this season.
Frost said the ability to adjust to both positions depends on the player’s attitude and how smart the player is when it comes to hockey.
“If they’re willing to do what’s right and really dig in and try to learn, then they’re going to be fine,” Frost said. “If they resist it a little bit … then it could be difficult.”
Wolfe said she thought anyone on the team could play either position.
Senior captain Bethany Brausen wasn’t so sure she could have made the jump to defense like some of her teammates.
“They could never throw me back on defense and expect anything special. So I think we’re really lucky and blessed to have a few players on the team that have that versatility,” Brausen said.