MINNEAPOLIS — It has been an unusual spring and summer for Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost, and he doesn’t care for it. The coronavirus pandemic means no camps to work, and no official recruiting, as the NCAA has extended its moratorium on campus visits to September. In a recent episode of The Rink Live podcast, Frost admitted it has been frustrating.
But the work he and his staff did on the recruiting trail prior to the pandemic is being hailed as the nation’s best. Recently, the national hockey site NeutralZone.net ranked the class of eight Gophers newcomers as the best in the nation.
Leading the class, for the Gophers and nationally, is forward Abbey Murphy from suburban Chicago, the top-ranked prospect in the country. It is the second year in a row that the nation’s top prospect has come to the U of M, after defender Madeline Wethington from The Blake School — the 2019 Ms. Hockey winner — was ranked first nationally a year ago.
In addition to Murphy, Frost and his staff will welcome Wethington’s sister Audrey, a forward from Blake, as well as Minnetonka defender Maggie Nicholson (ranked third in the nation), Blake forward Addie Burton, forward Anne Cherkowski from British Columbia, defender Josey Dunne from suburban St. Louis and Edina defender Tella Jungels. Also in the class of newcomers is senior goalie Lauren Bench, who is originally from Eagan and is a transfer from Bemidji State.
It is the third time in the past four hockey seasons that Frost has landed the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class. His 2019-20 Gophers finished 27-6-3 and were prepping to host a NCAA playoff game versus conference rival Ohio State when the season was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Future Hockey Day Minnesota sites not set
Here is what we know: whenever the next Hockey Day Minnesota event is held, it will be in Mankato. The home of the Mavericks became the first southern Minnesota city to be awarded the event last January, at the conclusion of HDM 2020 in Minneapolis and will host the next event.
The list of what we do not know is lengthy. For example, Mankato is slated to be the HDM host community in January 2021, but that could be pushed back to 2022 because of the pandemic, if the upcoming hockey season is delayed, cancelled or significantly altered.
And according to key HDM organizers, a recent published report that White Bear Township has been awarded the first post-Mankato HDM is premature at best. This week, a headline in the White Bear Press announced “Hockey Day Minnesota coming to White Bear Township.” That’s not necessarily the case, says Fox Sports North, which along with the Minnesota Wild is a key driver of the event.
“This is not official,” FSN spokesperson Becky Ross told The Rink Live. “White Bear is one of a number of communities that has expressed interest in hosting an upcoming Hockey Day Minnesota.”
Per the Press story, organizer Corey Roberts said that FSN and the Wild have told him “internally” that White Bear will host HDM after Mankato, either in 2022 or 2023, and they identified soccer fields at Polar Lakes Park as the venue for the outdoor hockey rink.
If White Bear Township hosts the event in the future, it would be the fourth east metro site for HDM, after St. Paul was the host in 2009 and 2015, and Stillwater was the host community in 2017.
Gophers trio honored for classroom work
Whether they are taking classes on campus or remotely due to the pandemic, three Gophers women are among the nation’s top student-athletes.
Last week the American Hockey Coaches Association honored 253 women as Krampade All-American Scholars. Among them were Gophers Olivia Knowles, Taylor Wente and Alex Woken.
“These are exceptional individuals,” said AHCA executive director Joe Bertagna in a statement. “The sport demands a great deal from these athletes so it is a great statement they make, individually and collectively, with their ability to attain this level of academic achievement while contributing at the NCAA Division I level.”
To qualify, a student-athlete needed a 3.75 GPA for the fall semester and participation in 40% of their school's games. Knowles is a rising senior defender from British Columbia, Wente is a rising senior forward from Plymouth and Woken was a senior from Fargo.