The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team is one that is known as a powerhouse. Some would even consider them a modern day dynasty. They get this reputation from their very talented players, many of whom have even taken their skill to national levels by representing their countries in the Olympics and World Championships. The Gophers posted a record of 41-0-0 during their 2012-13 season, which would turn into a 62-game winning streak, something almost unheard of in hockey. The Gophers ended the 2014-15 season as national champions, which would be their third win in only four years. Can the Gophers clinch the 2015-16 national title, posting their third set of back-to-back national championships?
Most people think winning back-to-back championships is extremely hard to do, which is true, but the Gophers seem to have a pretty good shot at reaching this feat during the 2015-16 season. The Gophers lost defenseman Rachel Ramsey, forward Rachael Bona, forward Meghan Lorence and back-up goaltender Shyler Sletta, as they were seniors during the 2014-15 season. On top of that, they lost Kate Flug and Olympian Amanda Kessel due to injury. With Kessel, the Gophers most likely would have been a shoe-in for another national championship; and losing the other players doesn’t help either, obviously. But despite their losses, they are still stacked with talent. Coming back for her senior year is Hannah Brandt, who is one of the most talented players to ever put on a Gopher jersey. Brandt not only is very likely to break the program’s all-time point record this season, but her talent was also shown with Team USA at the World Championships and U-22 Series this offseason. Fans can expect Brandt to rack up a high amount of points this 2015-16 season; most likely one of the top totals in the country. Aside from Brandt is senior goaltender Amanda Leveille, who represented Team Canada in the offseason. The other seniors this year include Brook Garzone, Milica McMillen and Maryanne Menefee. Both Menefee and McMillen have proven to have a lot of talent, and are top players in the country. So, although the Gophers lost some talented seniors, they still have a lot of the key players that they would need to have success out on the ice.
Aside from the talent of their seniors, the Gophers have a strong core of younger players, as well. Junior Dani Cameranesi played alongside Hannah Brandt in the World Championships and U-22 Series earlier in the year. She scored 65 points last year, which ranked second on the Gophers, behind Brandt’s 74 points. Minnesota also has junior Lee Stecklein, a talented defenseman who participated in the 2014 Winter Olympics on Team USA. On the roster is sophomores Sydney Baldwin, Cara Piazza and Kelly Pannek, who all participated in the U-22 series. Last year, all three of these players were top freshmen in the country, so it would not be surprising if they score a high number of points this season. The Gophers add a lot of talent with nine new recruits, two of which have played one year of college hockey at different schools. Among the new players are Sophie Skarzynski and Sarah Potomak, who have both represented their countries at the U-18 games. The two transfer players are Nicole Schammel and Caitlin Reilly. Schammel will not be able to play during the 2015-16 season due to her choice to transfer within the same conference, but Reilly should see some ice time this year. Both found success in their first year of college hockey; Schammel even led the Minnesota State Mavericks in points. Reilly played solid in her first year as well, and is the sister of future Minnesota Wild defenseman, Mike Reilly.
The Minnesota Gophers will most likely remain one of the top teams in college hockey this year, and it would not be surprising if they win their seventh national championship. Although they lost a lot of talent from graduating seniors, they still clearly have a strong team who has another year of experience; plus are able to add a very talented group of newcomers. College hockey fans should not be surprised if the Minnesota Golden Gophers are the national champions, once again.