The Gopher Women's Hockey team is once again off to a great start to the season. They are ranked #1 in the Nation with a 7-0-1 record. Their only blemish is a tie at UMD, and their four wins include a home sweep of #9 North Dakota and a road sweep of then #1 Wisconsin in Madison. One reason for the Gophers success over the past two years and once again this season has been junior center Hannah Brandt.
Brandt current leads the nation in scoring with 18 points in eight games. She also leads the nation in goals with nine. She has been a fixture on the Gophers top line since arriving as a freshman after winning the 2012 Ms. Hockey Award at Hill-Murray High School. Brandt is on pace to set several Gopher career scoring records. She is already eighth on the Gopher career assist list, and at her current pace will be near the top three before her senior season even begins. She should be in the top ten for career points as well by the end of the season.
I got a chance to talk with her this week, and for someone with her success she remains incredibly humble. Its all about the team to Hannah as they try to get back to the NCAA Frozen Four and win a third national championship in four years, My interview with Hannah is below:
TDG: Having been on both the winning and losing end of a national title run over the past two seasons, are there any lessons you're taking with you into this year?
HB: Yeah, obviously winning a national championship was unbelievable experience for me and all my teammates, but I think losing the last game last year definitely lit a fire under all of us. Having to watch the other team celebrate is probably one of the hardest things to do so I think now that we all know how bad that hurt we’ll want it even more this year.
TDG: Your first two years you have played with some great upperclassmen in the likes of Megan Bozak, Amanda Kessel, Kelly Terry, etc. Now you are one of the upperclassmen and someone the current freshmen are coming in and looking to for advice. Is there anything specific you learned from any of those players that helped you your first two seasons that you are now trying to teach some of the younger players?
HB: Yes they were all great leaders on and off the ice. I think just their hard work ethic and that they just wanted it so bad and just showing the underclassmen how hard you have to work to win a national championship and to just be the best you can be.
TDG: You were one of the top ten finalists for the Patty Kazmaier award your freshman year and made the final three a year ago. You are off to a great start this year and will be one of the favorites to win it this season. Is that something you have as an individual goal going into the season, or is that just something that just goes along with having a good season as a team?
HB: Yeah, I mean I don’t really care about that too much at all, but I think it shows how good a team we have that every year we have people named top ten finalists for that award, and that we have won it recently. It just shows the talent on our team I guess.
TDG: You are already 8th in career assists in the history of the Gopher program, and if you continue at your current pace you will be near the top three by the end of the season. You seem to have a knack for having great chemistry with your linemates and being able to make that great pass. Is that something you have specifically tried to work on in your career or just something that comes naturally to you?
HB: I have always kind of been more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. I know the coaches want me to shoot more. The players I have been fortunate to play with create opportunities, and its very possible that when I make a play they score more times than not, so I think that being able to pass more often and them being able to score is what has gotten me to that point.
TDG: Like you said, you have played with some great players, and you always seem to have great chemistry with your line mates over the last few years, especially with Amanda (Kessel) your freshman season and again this year with Dani (Cameranesi). Is that something you try to work on in the summer, or is that something that just builds over practices and games in the regular season?
HB: I think it just kind of builds as the season gets going. I know with Kessel my freshman year it took a couple of games, and then we were going pretty good. I’ve played with Maryanne (Menefee) all three years now, and with Dani I think we have definitely gotten a lot of improvement in the way we play together just so far in these first eight games.
TDG: You were not selected for the 2014 Olympic Team unlike some of your teammates. Did that motivate you to continue to improve as a player?
HB: Yeah, you know it is always been a goal of mine to make the team, but not making it last year allowed me to come back and play on this team last year and get better along with all my other teammates. We made a pretty good run for the national championship, we fell a little short, but yeah its obviously motivating, but I just wanted to as best I could with Minnesota.
TDG: What does it mean for you to be able to put on the Red, White and Blue and play for the US National Team in tournaments like the Four Nations Cup next week?
HB: It’s definitely an honor to be able to play for your country, and I haven’t been able to do it for a while so I’m pretty excited. But I definitely think it is just an extra thing that goes along with playing for our school because I enjoy both very much and I am just looking forward to being able to do it.
TDG: It seems like Coach Frost has done a good job at keeping you all motivated and hungry for more. What do you enjoy most about playing for him and the rest of the coaching staff?
HB: I think the way he keeps us focused on every single game and taking it just one at a time, and stressing in practice that values are important. It’s not always whether we win or lose but how we play and knowing that we played to the best of our ability is the most important thing.
TDG: Who is your favorite opponent to face?
HB: There’s a lot, but I would say it’s probably between North Dakota, Wisconsin and Duluth. But I’d say Wisconsin just because it always seems it’s a very fast paced game with them, and it’s not too crazy, but its clean hockey and always really fun.
TDG: What's your favorite arena to play a road series in and why?
HB: Obviously Ridder is #1, but I would say even though they play in different arenas Wisconsin is always fun to play at because they get a lot of fans and they pack their arena full every time.
TDG: Going along with that, what does it say about your team that you have played Wisconsin and won thirteen straight games against the Badgers? Your class has never lost to Wisconsin and seven of those games it has been #1 vs #2 in the country. How do you always seem to come out on top against the Badgers?
HB: Sometimes I seriously don’t even know. Just a couple weekends ago we were down with just a couple minutes left, so I don’t know how we pull it off every time, it’s just a testament to how well we have played when we are pushed with our backs against the wall and when we need to have a good game we always step up against them. They are a great team, but it just shows how well we play in big games.
We want to thank Hannah for her time this week answering some questions for us in-between class and practice!
Hannah and the Gophers will host Bemidji State at Ridder Arena this weekend. Friday's game is a 7:07 face-off, and Saturday's game will face-off at 4:07. Three Gophers, Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, and Lee Stecklein will only play in Friday night's game as on Saturday they will be traveling to Kamloops, BC with the rest of the U.S. National Team to play in the 4 Nations Cup next week. Also on the US team will be former Gophers Megan Bozak and Gigi Marvin. The US, Canada, Sweden and Finland will all compete in a round robin tournament with the finals taking place next weekend. The Gophers will also be represented on two of the other teams as Gopher alums Kelly Terry will be playing for Canada and Mira Jalouso will be playing for Finland.
Good luck to the Gophers and Team USA this weekend and next week!