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Andover teams up with Sophie's Squad for 'Hockey Hits Back' mental health awareness night

Andover seniors Ella Boerger and Madison Brown talked with The Rink Live about their involvement with the game and what Sophie's Squad means to them.

Hockey player pose for a picture before the ceremonial puck drop.
Players from Andover and Proctor/Hermantown pose for a photo on the ice with members of Sophie's Squad before a ceremonial puck drop at the 'Hockey Hits Back' event on Jan. 7, 2023.
Contributed Photo

ANDOVER, Minn. — "It's more than a game," said Andover seniors Ella Boerger and Madison Brown as they prepare to host a mental health awareness game in partnership with Sophie's Squad.

Sophie Wieland took her own life in the summer of 2021 at the age of 14. The non-profit 'Sophie's Squad' was founded later that year with a mission to "improve the mental health of athletes from youth to college by raising awareness of mental health issues and removing the stigma associated with seeking help".

The organization has started to host 'Hockey Hits Back' nights, mostly at the high school and collegiate level, to spread the message that there is always hope and there is always help.

Andover will compete in a big match on Saturday, Jan. 7, against Proctor/Hermantown, but the main focus of the game won't be to win on the ice — it will be to raise awareness of mental health and to break the stigma around the discussions of getting help.

The color teal will be present throughout multiple aspects of the game, from stick tape to ribbons worn in players hair.

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The message of the organization hits a little harder for a some members on the Andover team. Ella Boerger, along with goalie Courtney Stagman and junior Nora Sauer, all played in the Sartell/Sauk Rapids area growing up, which is where Sophie Wieland lived and played.

Brown and Boerger
Andover seniors Ella Boerger and Madison Brown. Both players are committed to play at the University of St. Thomas next season.
Contributed photo.

"I'm from Sartell and I would see her around the rink and I would see her family. I played a couple times with her older sister and my brother played with her brother," said Boerger.

"It means a lot to me and to a couple of other girls on our team that we're doing this for Sophie."

Junior forward Nora Sauer's father will be doing a ceremonial puck drop at the game. Nora played a season at Sartell/Sauk Rapids in 2019-20 before making the move to Andover.

Sophie's Squad has been involved in many special events since the group's inception, and recently Minnesota Duluth forward Gabbie Hughes has done a lot to bring awareness to the group .

Isa Goettl, Ella Boerger, Madison Brown.jpg
Andover's (L to R) Isa Goettl, Ella Boerger, and Madison Brown, pose for a photo with their Sophie's Squad gear on.
Contributed Photo.

Boerger and teammate Madison Brown both think that it's cool to see older players spreading awareness for the cause, and they both hope to continue to be a part of the movement when they head to college next year. Both skaters are currently committed to play Division I next season at the University of St. Thomas.

Both Brown and Boerger have fought through some injuries this season and have had to find ways to stay mentally strong when they can't be out on the ice.

Brown broke her collarbone at the beginning of the season and just recently was cleared to start skating again. "You just want to help the team as much as possible, so I'm just trying to stay positive," she said.

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Boerger battled with an ankle sprain recently and also had to find ways to stay positive when kept off the ice.

"It can be hard to see your teammates and best friends do what you love and you can take it for granted some times, but it makes you more grateful to play in the end," she said.

Hockey Hits Back
The flyer for the Hockey Hits Back game on Jan. 7, 2023.
Contributed Photo.

Proctor/Hermantown is one of the top teams in Class A and they will travel to take on Andover, a top team in Class AA, for the Hockey Hits Back game on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 2 p.m.

All of the proceeds from the event will go to Sophie's Squad and those coming to the game are encouraged to wear teal in support of the cause.

To find out more about Sophie's Squad, their mission, and how you can support the cause, you can visit their website here .

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Sydney Wolf is a reporter for The Rink Live, primarily covering youth hockey. She joined the team in November of 2021 and graduated from St. Cloud State University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a minor in Writing and Rhetoric Studies and was a part of the University Honors Program.
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