Rinkytown blog: Gophers women add a forward as second half push begins
The Minnesota Gophers will be the third women's college hockey team for Kyleigh Hanzlik, who was added to the roster for the second half of their season. Also, Austin's most famous hockey product remembers John Madden; news on the Olympic men's roster is expected soon; and Bryce Brodzinski scored his biggest collegiate goal versus Michigan State last season.
MINNEAPOLIS – Barely an hour after he dropped his oldest son off at the airport for a flight back to college out of state, Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost said being together with family was the best gift he received over the holidays.
But in terms of getting something new, he also received an addition to the team’s roster which will mean important depth as the Gophers work toward a return to the NCAA tournament after just missing out in 2021.
Just past New Years’ Day, the program announced that forward Kyleigh Hanzlik, a redshirt senior who most recently played at Robert Morris University, will join the Gophers hockey team for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. Originally from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Hanzlik traveled south, then east for college, before ending up at Ridder Arena.
“She started at Wisconsin and is a Wisconsin kid. She transferred to Robert Morris and has been there the last two years,” Frost said. RMU dropped its hockey programs following the 2020-21 season but will reinstate them in the future. “Even before their program folded she had transferred to the University of Minnesota. So she was here all fall, and we talked in the summer that she wanted to join our team but we had a really big roster, so we didn’t feel that the timing was right. With injuries and some different things over the fall, we now have room. So I called her up and she’s excited to be with us.”
The Gophers are 14-5-1 overall and 9-4-1 in the WCHA as the season’s unofficial second half begins. They are 10 points back of Wisconsin and Ohio State, which are tied atop the conference standings, but the Gophers have two games in hand on both the Badgers and Buckeyes. Minnesota’s return to the ice means the inauguration of a new neighborhood rivalry, as they play St. Thomas – the newest member of the WCHA – in a home-and-home series.
“Obviously they’re going to be extremely hungry, as any team is when they play the Gophers for the first time,” Frost said. His long-time assistant coach Joel Johnson is the Tommies’ head coach, and former Gophers player and assistant coach Bethany Brausen is Johnson’s top assistant. “With their staff over there being former Gopher coaches, it should be a great start to get back at it.”
The Tommies are 4-13-1 overall, 2-11-1 in the conference. As for when Gophers fans might see Hanzlik on the ice, Frost said she is working to get game-ready but is an important addition to the roster.
“She has got some good leadership skills and experience because she’s been playing NCAA hockey for four years, but right now it’s a matter of her getting into shape and assimilating with our team,” Frost said. “We’ll see where that goes, but it gives us four full lines, six full D and a bunch of goalies, so we’re excited about it.”
For Motzko, hometown memories of Madden
No matter how many banners he may hang in his hockey career, Gophers men’s hockey coach Bob Motzko will at best be the second-most famous sports figure to get a start in Austin, Minn.
Legendary football coach and broadcaster John Madden, who died in late December 2021 at age 85, was born in Austin in 1936 and lived there for just a few years until his family moved to northern California. He coached the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings 45 years ago.
“He wasn’t there very long, but we claim him, and reading the articles, he was sure claiming us,” Motzko said, saying that Madden’s roots in Austin were kind of a local legend. “Growing up, he was coaching Oakland at the time and we all had heard that he was from town, and they all said he lived over on the other side of the railroad tracks. No idea if it’s true, but I think I know his neighborhood.”
Madden coached the Raiders for 10 seasons, then spent three decades in the broadcast booth, and was the namesake of the Madden football video game series.
“A lot of great people come out of Austin,” Motzko said with a smile. “I’m not one of them, but he’s one.”
Olympic roster news expected soon
David Quinn knows college hockey from the days when he was an assistant coach at Northeastern, Omaha and Boston University. He was then the head coach at BU and led the Terriers to a runner-up finish at the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four before his ultimately unsuccessful run coaching the New York Rangers. He has now been handed the reins of Team USA for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and is expected to invite several current college players to the squad, which will seek gold next month in Beijing.
Among the Gophers who are considered “flight risks” are defensemen Brock Faber and Ryan Johnson, and forwards Ben Meyers and Matthew Knies. Three of the four have played for Team USA at the World Juniors level, including Knies and Faber just last week, before Canadian officials canceled the 2022 WJC early due to COVID concerns.
On Wednesday, Motzko said he may learn from Quinn as soon as this weekend if any Gophers would be named to the team, and that they would leave on Jan. 31 for a training camp in Los Angeles, before traveling to China for the games.
Faber, who won World Juniors gold a year ago and lost the chance to defend his medal last week, said he would jump at the chance to be an Olympian.
“At the end of the day it’s important to me to play for the Gophers and it’s also super important to me to represent this country,” said Faber, who is second on the Gophers among defensemen – behind Johnson – with two goals and seven assists in 22 games. “So if my name was called, I for sure would jump on that opportunity and do the best I could for the red, white and blue.”
The Americans’ first Olympic hockey game in Beijing is on Feb. 10, and the gold medal game is on Feb. 20. That means any Gophers headed overseas to play for Team USA would likely miss, at minimum, a home series with Michigan State (Feb. 4-5) and road series at Ohio State (Feb. 11-12) and Penn State (Feb. 18-19).
With the possibility of losing two defensemen for three weeks, there is also a chance that Motzko could add a blueliner to the roster sometime before classes for the new U of M semester begin on Jan. 17.
Spartans memory sacred for Brodzinski
Of the 24 goals Bryce Brodzinski has scored in his two-and-a-half seasons of college hockey, none was bigger than the puck he shot in a mostly-empty Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame on a Sunday afternoon last March.
Playing their Big Ten Tournament opener, the second-seed Gophers faced Michigan State, which finished last in the seven-team league last season, and got a handful from the upset-minded Spartans. MSU clung to a 1-0 lead with less than five minutes remaining and freshman goalie Pierce Charleson playing his heart out.
Finally, Brodzinski broke through and tied the game with assists from defensemen Mike Koster and Matt Staudacher. The Gophers later won it in overtime, on their 50th shot of the game, by Sampo Ranta.
“It’s definitely one that I like to look at. A lot of people go back and look at their own goals to see what they did right, and that’s one I like to look at because it was such a big goal and a lot of emotions in that goal,” Brodzinski said this week. “I’ve got a picture of Mikey Koster screaming in my face and Benny Meyers jumping on my back after that goal. Just a lot of emotions in that goal and probably one of my favorites so far.”