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Bulldogs will be well represented by players, staff members past and present at 2022 Olympics in Beijing

The Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs are sending 15 current and former members to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

St. Cloud State head coach Brett Larson talks to reporters during NCHC media day on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Larson, a Duluth Denfeld graduate who played and coached at Minnesota Duluth, will be an assistant coach on the U.S. Olympic Men's Hockey Team.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — For Duluthian Brett Larson, there are two Olympic moments that have stuck with him throughout his hockey career as a Denfeld Hunter, Minnesota Duluth Bulldog and now as coach at St. Cloud State.

The first was on Feb. 22, 1980, when a 7-year-old Larson sat in the car with his parents and listened to the United States Olympic men’s hockey team defeat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, in the Miracle on Ice.

The second for Larson was the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. It was the last Olympics before the NHL started taking part in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, and a former Bulldogs teammate of Larson’s — fellow blueliner Brett Hauer — was playing for Team USA.

Now Larson gets to make his own Olympic memories in person over the next couple weeks. The two-time national championship assistant coach at UMD and current head coach at SCSU will serve as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, China.

“When Brett got to play in the Olympics after we played together at UMD, I remember all the guys watching the games and how excited everybody was for him,” said Larson, the Denfeld grad who played at UMD from 1991-95. “That’s the thing, going back to being an athlete or a coach, there is really no hesitation. You’re just excited for the people that are going. I remember us feeling the same way for Brett.”


Brett Larson (right), then an assistant with Minnesota Duluth, chats with Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik during a practice at the 2018 NCAA Frozen Four at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
File / News Tribune

Larson coached at UMD twice from 2008-11 and 2015-18, helping the Bulldogs win national championships in 2011 and 2018 — both at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Larson has been head coach of the Huskies since the 2018-19 season, having already won an NCHC regular season title and taken SCSU to the Frozen Four a year ago.

Larson is one of 15 current and former Bulldogs players and staff members taking part in the men’s and women’s hockey tournaments at 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. The women’s tournament begins play Wednesday night (Duluth time) while the American men are scheduled to open against China at 7:10 a.m. on Feb. 10.

While the NHL second-guessed its participation in the Olympics with the COVID-19 pandemic still gripping the globe, none of the current and former Bulldogs the News Tribune spoke with over the last few months questioned their participation.

That included Larson.

“When I got the call from (U.S. head coach David) Quinn inviting me to be on the staff, literally when I hung up the phone, I don’t know how to describe it,” Larson said. “I was just in awe, really. It’s really exciting and just a huge honor.

“It wasn’t hard. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s the Olympics. Just to be a part of the Olympics and represent our country, you just can’t turn that down.”

Four current Bulldogs playing in Beijing

Men's hockey players in black uniforms compete against players in white uniforms at Amsoil Arena
Minnesota Duluth forward Noah Cates (21) skates with the puck against Western Michigan on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Larson, a senior captain at UMD in 1994-95, is one of two Bulldogs on the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team along with current UMD senior wing and captain Noah Cates. Both joined this week’s episode of the Bulldog Insider Podcast on Monday night from Los Angeles, where the U.S. men’s team was gathering before leaving for Beijing later in the week.

Since being named to Team USA in mid-January, Cates has kept his focus on captaining the Bulldogs. Now that he was finally with Team USA on Monday, he said he was finally embracing the title of “Olympian.”


“It feels pretty good, it feels really special being around all the guys, getting all the gear and whatnot,” Cates said. “There is a good energy around it and we’re excited to get over to China and see the village and everything.”

While Cates awaits his first taste of Olympic life, his three classmates from the UMD women’s hockey program have been at the Olympic village in Beijing for almost a week.

Senior goaltender Emma Soderberg of Sweden, fifth-year senior defenseman Ashton Bell of Canada and junior forward Kassy Betinol of China are also playing in their first Olympics, like Cates.

Canadian women's ice hockey team practice for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
Canadian women's ice hockey team player Ashton Bell listens to the head coach Troy Ryan during practice at the Wukesong Arena ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, on January 30, 2022.

Betinol and Bell have been centralized with their respective national teams for the entirety of the 2021-22 season. Bell and Canada have been playing games against U.S. and Canadian Junior A teams in the leadup to the Olympics. Betinol and China were playing as the Vanke Rays in a Russian pro league, where Betinol led the team in scoring.

Soderberg was with the Bulldogs up until Jan. 20. She’ll miss the remainder of UMD’s regular season, but like Cates, will rejoin UMD following the Olympics.

Eight former Bulldogs repping their country

Hockey: Canada USA Rivalry Series-USA at Canada
Canada defensemen Jocelyne Larocque (3) skates against the United States during the third period in a Rivalry Series women's hockey game at Leon's Centre on Nov, 21, 2021, in Kingston, Ontario.
John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

Larson isn’t the only former Bulldog at the Olympics. The UMD women’s program has eight former players lacing up their skates in Beijing, and they represent eight different countries.

Canada defenseman Jocelyne Larocque (2007-11) and Switzerland forward Lara Stalder (2013-17) are both playing in their third Olympics. Larocque has two medals having won gold in 2014 and silver in 2018. Stalder won a bronze in 2014.

United States goaltender Maddie Rooney (2015-2020) is back for her second Olympics after backstopping the U.S. to gold in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Sweden forward Michelle Lowenhielm (2014-18) is also making her second Olympic appearance eight years after making her first in 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Lowenhielm will captain Sweden in Beijing.


Preparations before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing
U.S. women's ice hockey goaltender Maddie Rooney in action during a training session at the Wukesong Arena ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, on January 31, 2022.

Two Bulldogs are making their first Olympic appearance — Jessica Wong (2009-13) at age 30 with China and 29-year-old Katerina Mrazova with the Czech Republic. Former Bulldog Linnea Hedin (2014-18) was named to Sweden’s Olympic team. She was supposed to be appearing in her first Olympics, but has been replaced on the roster after testing positive for COVID-19.

A pair of players — Russia forward Alexandra Vafina (2012-13) and Finland goaltender Eveliina Makinen (2014-15) — who had short stints at UMD —are also playing in their third Olympics.

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Former UMD staffers working at Olympics

Former Bulldogs Nick Bryant and Maddie Rooney
Former Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs Nick Bryant, left, and Maddie Rooney pose at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. Bryant is a former director of operations for UMD and Rooney is a former Bulldogs goaltender who are now both with the U.S. Olympic team.
Contributed / Nick Bryant

Two former staff members of the Bulldogs women’s hockey program are in Beijing.

Nick Bryant, the Bulldogs director of operations from 2017-2021, is the operations manager for the U.S. Olympic team. He works closely with Katie Million, the former WCHA commissioner who is now the director of the U.S. Women’s National Team and general manager of the Olympic team.

The director of Hockey Canada’s national teams is Gina Kingsbury, who was an assistant coach at UMD for one season in 2014-15.

Game Schedule

All times Central

WHKY: Czechia vs. China, 10 p.m.
WHKY: Canada vs. Switzerland, 10 p.m.


WHKY: Sweden vs. Japan, 2:30 a.m.
WHKY: USA vs. Finland, 7 a.m.
WHKY: Denmark vs. China, 10 p.m.
WHKY: ROC vs. Switzerland, 10 p.m.

WHKY: Canada vs. Finland, 10:10 p.m.

WHKY: Czechia vs. Sweden, 2:30 a.m.
WHKY: USA vs. ROC, 7 a.m.

WHKY: China vs. Japan, 2:30 a.m.
WHKY: Switzerland vs. USA, 7 a.m.
WHKY: ROC vs. Canada, 10 p.m.

WHKY: Denmark vs. Czechia, 2:30 a.m.
WHKY: China vs. Sweden, 7 a.m.
WHKY: Switzerland vs. Finland, 7 a.m.
WHKY: USA vs. Canada, 10 p.m.

WHKY: Japan vs. Czechia, 2:30 a.m.
WHKY: Sweden vs. Denmark, 7 a.m.
WHKY: Finland vs. ROC, 7 a.m.

MHKY: USA vs. China, 7 a.m.
WHKY: Quarterfinal 1, 10 p.m.

WHKY: Quarterfinal 2, 7 a.m.
MHKY: USA vs. Canada, 10 p.m.
WHKY: Quarterfinal 3, 10 p.m.


WHKY: Quarterfinal 4, 2:30 a.m..

MHKY: USA vs. Germany, 7 a.m.
WHKY: Semifinal 1, 10 p.m.

MONDAY, FEB. 14WHKY: Semifinal 2, 7 a.m.
MHKY: Qualification playoffs (2) [Teams that finished 5th-12th overall in pool play], 10 p.m.

MHKY: Qualification playoffs [Teams that finished 5th-12th overall in pool play], 2:30 a.m.
MHKY: Qualification playoffs [Teams that finished 5th-12th overall in pool play], 7 a.m.
MHKY: Quarterfinal 1, 10 p.m.
MHKY: Quarterfinal 2, midnight

MHKY: Quarterfinal 3, 2:30 a.m.
WHKY: Bronze medal game, 5:30 a.m.
MHKY: Quarterfinal 4, 7:30 a.m.
WHKY: Gold medal game, 10 p.m.

MHKY: Semifinal 1, 10 p.m.

MHKY: Semifinal 2, 7 a.m.

MHKY: Bronze Medal Game, 7 a.m.
MHKY: Gold Medal Game, 10 p.m.


Full schedule with viewing information at NBCOlympics.com.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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