It wasn’t a matter of who finished first or second for the Gophers last season — it was a matter of what order the two top runners finished. Then-junior Laura Docherty and then-sophomore Molly Kayfes switched off placing first and second for Minnesota all last season. In every race they competed in, the two were the team’s top finishers. But this year, the pair has some company at the front of the pack.
Baylee and Brienna Gillanders grew up playing hockey together. This weekend, the cousins will be on opposite ends of the ice as Baylee suits up for Minnesota and Brienna for Minnesota-Duluth. This isn’t the first time the two have gone toe-to-toe on the ice — both are seniors. But Brienna Gillanders admitted it’s still strange playing against her cousin. The cousins grew up together on a farm in Kyle, Saskatchewan, in houses separated by a garage. That made for a lot of cousin bonding time.
Rival Wisconsin tested the Gophers this weekend, even outplaying them at times. But resilience is a mark of a good team, and the Gophers managed to fight through to extend their winning streak to 53 games. No. 1 Minnesota came away with 2-1 and 2-0 wins over No. 4 Wisconsin after separating itself in the third period of both games.
No. 1 Minnesota will raise its NCAA championship banner Friday — and then get back to business. “It’s something that’s an incredible experience and something that we’ll always remember, but once that puck drops, it’s going to be all about this year,” head coach Brad Frost said. And the Gophers will have a tough task ahead of them this weekend with No. 4 Wisconsin in town.
Gloria Drake can recall a time when her daughter, Rachel, came home from school and decided she wanted to be a frog ophthalmologist. That was in fifth grade. Now, Rachel Drake is a biochemistry and Spanish double major at the University of Minnesota, all while competing for the Gophers on the cross country and track and field teams. Her interest in science hasn’t waned, but it has shifted from frog eyes to human hearts. Drake has been conducting cardiovascular research at the University and hopes to continue that — in Oxford, England.
Last weekend at the Roy Griak Invitational, the Minnesota men’s cross country team had problems from the onset. But Friday’s Notre Dame Invitational was a different story. The Gophers came out with a purpose and didn’t look back en route to a fourth-place finish. Head coach Steve Plasencia said the team had a “different demeanor” than last weekend, when it hosted the Griak. Senior captain John Simons said the captains encouraged the team to be more aggressive in the first half-mile of the race so that the team could be in a good position.
Minnesota completed a sweep of Colgate to begin its season for the second straight year, but the similarity between the two series ended there. Minnesota found itself down a goal in both games but bounced back to win 3-1 and 8-3 over the weekend, a change from last year, when the Gophers overpowered the Raiders 18-0 in two games. “You don’t lose so many great players … and expect to come out and roll over teams,” head coach Brad Frost said. “You never want to get down a goal, but it was good to see the way our players responded.”
Gophers head coach Sarah Hopkins deemed senior Katie Moraczewski’s race at last Saturday’s Roy Griak Invitational her “breakout race.” “That’s kind of what she’s been needing for the last couple seasons,” Hopkins said. “She kind of had that breakout race where she is running where she knows she can be.” Moraczewski placed sixth for the Gophers in both the team’s Intrasquad Meet and at the Oz Memorial.
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.
More than anything, the Gophers’ two exhibition games this weekend gave them the opportunity to tinker with lines, try players at different positions and generally ease back into on-ice competition. And amid all that, the team racked up a 6-0 victory over Team Japan on Thursday and a 7-0 win over the University of British Columbia on Friday.