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'Getting to know you' stage starts early for incoming St. Thomas women's recruiting class

Nine women's hockey players who have committed to St. Thomas for the 2023-24 season and beyond recently met on campus to get to know each other, eight months before their adventure in purple begins.

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On a cold Sunday morning in December 2022, nine players who have committed to play women's hockey at St. Thomas starting in the fall of 2023 gathered for a group photo by the school's on-campus arches in St. Paul, Minn. They are (left to right): Abby Garvin (Benilde-St. Margeret's), Maddy Helmsetter (Holy Family Catholic), Lane DeVries (Chisago Lakes), Cara Sajevic (Gentry Academy), Rylee Bartz (Warroad), Keara Parker (RINK Hockey Academy), Madison Brown (Andover), Ellah Hause (Hill Murray), and Ella Boerger (Andover).
Contributed / Karen Brown

ST. PAUL – It was mostly quiet inside the normally-bustling student center at the University of St. Thomas on a cold, clear Sunday morning, a week before Christmas. A few students worked on their notebook computers, and off in a second-floor room with a wall-sized TV, a handful gathered to watch the World Cup finale.

About the most excitement the building saw that morning was a unique gathering that signified an important part of the future for the Tommies women’s hockey program. Just a few hours after the current St. Thomas women had completed their first WCHA sweep a few miles away at their rink in the suburbs, nine players who are committed to play for the Tommies next season and beyond gathered in person for the first time. The purpose was straightforward — getting to know each other a little bit, roughly eight months before they will gather on campus as freshmen.

Organized by one of their parents, the meeting of the nine members of the “Tommie ‘23s” was an informal affair. They wore their current hockey sweaters, chatted in person, took a few pictures, then grabbed lunch near campus. Many of them had met as opponents on the ice before, and likely will again, as several of their teams are contenders for 2023 state titles. But this was a first chance to have all nine of them together in one spot, to think about how they will interact as teammates next season.

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Nine players committed to play women's hockey at St. Thomas for the 2023-24 season and beyond gathered in the school's student center in St. Paul, Minn., for a group photo on Sunday, December 18. 2022. They are (left to right): Rylee Bartz (Warroad), Madison Brown (Andover), Cara Sajevic (Gentry Academy), Keara Parker (RINK Hockey Academy), Abby Garvin (Benilde-St. Margeret's), Maddy Helmsetter (Holy Family Catholic), Ellah Hause (Hill Murray), Lane DeVries (Chisago Lakes) and Ella Boerger (Andover).<br/><br/><br/>
Contributed / Karen Brown

The idea was not only first in-person introductions for some of them, but a chance to establish social media contacts and talk about things like training get-togethers over the summer, roommates for next season and other little details.

“I’ve played against them for a couple years but we’re all pretty good friends because we play together in the summer," said Hill-Murray defenseman Ellah Hause. "It’s nice to meet the new girls from up north."


“Up north” was a reference to the two players traveling the furthest for the photo opportunity — Warroad forward Rylee Bartz and forward Keara Parker from Winnipeg, who is playing her final prep season for RINK Hockey Academy in British Columbia.

“It was a good way to come and meet all the girls, but the six-hour drive isn’t always fun,” said Bartz, who is off to a red-hot start for the Warriors, after transferring from Fargo North/South for her senior season with 26 goals in her first 11 games. “This is the first time we’ve been together and meeting all the girls for me, so it’s really fun.”

Just getting back on the ice has been the challenge for the past few months for Benilde-St. Margaret’s forward Abby Garvin, who suffered a knee injury in soccer that limited her hockey time early in the season.

“I’m back this week, so hopefully we can get a few more wins,” Garvin said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games.”

In addition to starring for the Pioneers, Hause will be heading to Sweden on Dec. 30 to play for Team USA in the U18 Women’s World Championships, which start in early January. Even she admitted that thinking about next season when this group will be in Tommies purple comes naturally.

“It’s a little tough not thinking about it, because I’m so excited to get there, but the focus right now is hopefully getting to the state tournament,” she said.

Those dreams of wearing purple and skating with new friends at an on-campus rink that is the planning stages can wait, for a few more months anyway.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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