The Big Ten Conference was well-represented at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games as 18 current and former Big Ten student-athletes, coaches and university students earned 20 Olympic medals in Sochi, Russia. The conference brought home medals in both men's and women's ice hockey, bobsled and ice dancing, including five gold, 11 silver and four bronze.
The Big Ten broke down how the 20 medals were awarded, including seven current and former Golden Gopher women's hockey players accounting for five silver medals:
Minnesota led all schools with five participants and one coach medaling, while participants from Michigan and Wisconsin took home five medals each. In addition, Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State saw their Olympic competitors bring home medals.
The Big Ten was well represented in the women's ice hockey final, as the United States challenged Canada in the gold-medal game. The Canadians came out on top, 3-2, in an overtime contest for the gold behind the play of former Ohio State forward Natalie Spooner and former Wisconsin defenseman Meaghan Mikkelson. Fellow Badgers Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Jessie Vetter and former Gophers Megan Bozek, Gigi Marvin and Anne Schleper took home the silver skating for the United States. Current student-athletes Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein and assistant coach Robb Stauber, all from Minnesota, also earned silver as members of Team USA.
On the men's side, two Big Ten representatives took part in the final, with Canada defeating Sweden, 3-0. Former Michigan State student-athlete Duncan Keith helped Team Canada to the gold medal, while former Michigan standout Carl Hagelin took home the silver skating for Sweden.
In ice dancing, Meryl Davis and Charlie White added four medals to the Wolverines' lot. The pair became the first American ice dancing duo to capture Olympic gold. They also helped Team USA to a bronze medal in the inaugural team figure skating competition.
Former Illinois track and field athlete Aja Evans and Nebraska football player Curtis Tomasevicz each earned bronze medals in bobsled. Evans placed third in the USA-2 sled, helping Team USA to two medals in women's bobsledding for the first time. Tomasevicz was part of the USA-1 team that snagged the bronze medal in four-man bobsled with a time of 3:40.99, beating Russia-2 by 0.03 seconds.
Big Ten student-athletes and coaches have been a part of the Olympic experience on more than 1,370 occasions, including many taking multiple trips to the international event. That list of conference standouts has accumulated at least 480 medals, including 248 gold.
The Gopher women's hockey team secured its eighth WCHA regular-season championship with a 3-2 win at Wisconsin on Feb. 14, 2014. Minnesota received the WCHA trophy before a 6-0 win over UMD on Feb. 21, 2014. Catch up on some of the reactions to the Gophers' championship!
Let's Play Hockey newspaper announced that future Golden Gopher Sydney Baldwin, a senior defenseman on the Minnetonka High School girls' hockey team, was named the winner of the 19th annual Ms. Hockey Award today at the annual Ms. Hockey Awards Banquet. The award, presented to the top girls' high school hockey player in Minnesota, is based on the following criteria: academics, community/extracurricular activities, citizenship, coachability and, of course, on-ice performance.
The career leading scorer for defensemen at Minnetonka, Baldwin becomes the first blueliner to be named Ms. Hockey since South St. Paul's Ashley Albrecht in 2002. Averaging over 30 minutes per game this season, Baldwin owned totals of 12-19--31 and helped Minnetonka to an unprecedented three consecutive state championships during her career. She captained the Skippers to the No. 5 ranking in Class AA this season to go along with a 19-6-2 overall record.
Baldwin had points in 19 of her 27 games this season, including nine multi-point contests. She was a three-time all-conference and all-state honoree for the Skippers. Baldwin was also a member of the silver medal-winning U.S. Women's National Under-18 Team at the 2013 IIHF World U18 Championship and will represent Team USA again this March.
Baldwin is set to continue her hockey career with the Gophers and will join Minnesota for the 2014-15 season.
"Sydney Baldwin is like Bobby Orr," Minnetonka head coach Eric Johnson said. "She's the best defensive and offensive player on the ice and the most humble, team-first player off the ice. Syd is the best all-around skater we have ever seen at Minnetonka. She's smooth, fast and strong, while making it look effortless as she glides by opponents. Her puck-handling, passing and shot are even more impressive than her skating ability."
Away from hockey, Baldwin owns a 3.45 GPA and volunteers her time with the DinoMights Inner City Youth Hockey Program. She has also served as a Big Sister with Minnetonka youth hockey teams. In addition to hockey, Baldwin was a two-time member of the Skipper tennis team, captaining the squad to a second-place finish in the 2012 state tournament.
"Sydney is a giver," Johnson said. "She has volunteered over 100 hours in the Minnetonka Youth Hockey Association, attending youth girls' practices, games, study halls and pizza parties. She cares about the kids and about being a good role model. In addition to her academic and athletic commitments, she works four part-time jobs throughout the year. She understands that success is earned through hard work and expects nothing to be given to her."
Two other future Gophers were among the finalists for Ms. Hockey in Kelly Pannek of Benilde-St. Margaret's and Nina Rodgers of Hopkins. Sam Donovan of Irondale and Nicole Schammel of Red Wing rounded out the top five finalists.
Past winners include Dani Cameranesi of Blake (2013), Hannah Brandt of Hill-Murray (2012), Karley Sylvester of Warroad (2011), Bethany Brausen of Roseville (2010) Becky Kortum of Hopkins (2009), Sarah Erickson of Bemidji (2008), Katharine Chute of Blake (2007), Allie Thunstrom of North St. Paul (2006), Gigi Marvin of Warroad (2005), Erica McKenzie of Hastings (2004), Andrea Nichols of Hibbing/Chisholm (2003), Ashley Albrecht of South St. Paul (2002), Renee Curtin of Roseville (2001), Krissy Wendell of Park Center (2000), Ronda Curtin of Roseville (1999), Laura Slominski of Burnsville (1998), Annamarie Holmes of Apple Valley (1997) and Winny Brodt of Roseville (1996).
The 19th annual award, selected based on votes from a panel of high school coaches and Division I and III college coaches from Minnesota and Wisconsin, is sponsored by Let's Play Hockey, the Minnesota Wild and Shakopee Chevrolet.
Rival Films recently followed the Gopher women's hockey team to learn more about the program's culture and recipe for success. Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the program.
From Rival Films: "With back-to-back national titles, a 62-game winning streak that ended just months ago and a strong contingent competing in Sochi, the University of Minnesota has built an impressive women's hockey program. Go inside the team and learn how culture defines who they are."
Feb 8, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; USA defenseman Megan Bozek (9) carries the puck away from Finland forward Nina Tikkinen (23) during the women's ice hockey preliminary round game in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Shayba Arena. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will be well-represented in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games women's hockey gold-medal game this Thursday when Canada and the U.S. face off in the championship game. The WCHA will have 16 current and former players fighting for the gold medal. The game will be televised live at 11 a.m. CT on NBC.
The WCHA broke down the league's Olympians by country and university:
The roster for the United States team includes 11 current and former players from the WCHA. All 21 members of the squad have college ties and every player has competed in an IIHF Women's World Championship, including 18 who captured a gold medal last April to propel the United States to the No. 1 ranking in the world.
In addition to the five current and former Gophers competing for Team USA - Megan Bozek, Amanda Kessel, Gigi Marvin, Anne Schleper and Lee Stecklein - Wisconsin and North Dakota also have players on the Team USA roster. Marvin is the lone Olympic veteran among the Gopher representatives. Marvin is one of 11 USA athletes with Olympic experience, and Stecklein is the youngest player on the roster. Kessel and Stecklein have college eligibility remaining.
Four former Badgers are on the U.S. Olympic squad. They are forwards Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, who has been named team captain, and Hilary Knight, along with goaltender Jessie Vetter. It marks the second Olympic Games for Duggan, Knight and Vetter as the trio played for UW head coach Mark Johnson in the 2010 Olympics, while Decker is making her Olympic debut. Decker, Duggan and Vetter all took home the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the nation's top player, at some point during their Wisconsin careers, while Knight is the all-time leading scorer in school history. Vetter and Duggan each won three national championships while at Wisconsin, while Knight was a part of two national championship teams and Decker was a member of the 2011 national championship squad.
Former North Dakota players Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux are also on Team USA. It is the second Olympic Winter Games for the Lamoureux twins, who played in their first Olympics winning silver with the U.S. in 2010 in Vancouver.
Along with the Team USA connections, three WCHA teams - Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin and Ohio State - have former players on Team Canada, the defending Olympic champion. They are forward Natalie Spooner of Ohio State, defenseman Meghan Mikkelson of Wisconsin, Jocelyne Larocque of Minnesota Duluth and former UMD forwards Haley Irwin and Caroline Ouellette, the Canadian captain.
Overall there were 34 current and former WCHA players who competed in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, including Minnesota Duluth with 11 players, Minnesota with seven, North Dakota with six, Wisconsin with five, Ohio State with three and Minnesota State with two. There are five current and former WCHA players who will compete in the bronze medal game between Sweden and Switzerland Thursday at 6 am CT. That game will be televised by NBC Sports Network.
Along with five Team USA Gophers, Minnesota had Finnish teammates goalie Noora Räty, an all-American collegian last season, and defenseman Mira Jalouso in competition for their native countries. Wisconsin has five players - the USA quartet will be playing against Mikkelson, who won two national titles while at Wisconsin and was named the 2007 WCHA Defensive Player of the Year.
Along with the Lamoureuxs, UND also had three current players that played in the 2014 Games. Forwards Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani were key members of Team Finland, while defenseman Tanja Eisenschmid played for Germany. Former UND defenseman Susanne Fellner also played for Team Germany.
Minnesota Duluth had 11 current and former players on six teams in Sochi. Irwin, Larocque and Ouellette have been stalwarts for Team Canada, although Irwin missed some games with an injury. Both forwards, Irwin and Ouellette, played on Team Canada's gold medalists in 2010 in Vancouver. Ouellette is a three-time gold medalist for Canada (2010, 2006, 2002), while Larocque, an all-American defenseman, was one of the last players cut from the 2010 Canada Olympic squad after she was centralized for the first part of the 2009-10 NCAA season. After returning to UMD in January, she helped lead the Bulldogs to their fifth NCAA title that March.
Current Bulldog freshman defenseman Lara Stalder will play for a bronze medal with Team Switzerland Thursday against UMD alums defenseman Jenni Asserholt, goaltender Kim Martin Hansson and forward Pernilla Winberg who are all skating with Team Sweden. Ex-Bulldogs Alexandra Vafina and Iya Gavrilova played for the host team Russia, current Minnesota Duluth blueliner Tea Villila skated for Team Finland and former Bulldog goalie Jennifer Harss was on Germany's Olympic squad.
In addition to Spooner, Ohio State had two others alums in Sochi - forwards Minttu Tuominen and Emma Terho (Laaksonen) who played on Team Finland.
Minnesota State has two alums at the Games. Nina Tikkinen played for the Finnish team and fellow alum Emilia Andersson is on the Swedish tea which is still hoping for a bronze medal.
The Gopher Athletics department held a special ceremony at the Feb. 8 game at Ridder Arena. The Gophers welcomed back one of their former hockey players Jenelle (Philipczyk) Kelley and her husband, Ben, at the game against Bemidiji State. Jenelle and Ben's daughter, Lilah, who is two years old, is battling a rare form of nervous system cancer (neuroblastoma). Lilah's aunt, Jenessa Philipczyk, is a member of the Beaver hockey team as the two teams combined to raise awareness towards cancer. In a Gold Out celebration, funds were raised for Unlimited and the Amplatz Chilren's Hospital, where Lilah has been a recent patient.
Let's Play Hockey newspaper has announced the five finalists for the 19th annual Ms. Hockey Award, presented to the top senior girls' high school hockey player in Minnesota. Three future Gophers are among the top five candidates for the 2014 award: Minnetonka defenseman Sydney Baldwin, Benilde-St. Margaret's forward Kelly Pannek and Hopkins forward Nina Rodgers.
Each of the finalists has committed to a Division I women's hockey program as the top five also includes Irondale forward Sam Donovan (Brown) and Red Wing forward Nicole Schammel (Minnesota State). The five honorees have scored an average of 34 goals and 36 assists this season and have helped their respective teams to top 10 rankings.
In addition to their on-ice performance, all five finalists are standouts in the classroom as they check in with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.66.
The 2014 Ms. Hockey Award winner will be named at the Ms. Hockey Awards Banquet on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 11:30 a.m., at the RiverCentre in St. Paul. The award is sponsored by Let's Play Hockey, the Minnesota Wild and Shakopee Chevrolet. Fox 9's Dawn Mitchell will serve as the banquet emcee, while Fox Sports North's Jamie Hersch will be the keynote speaker. To order tickets to the Ms. Hockey Banquet, call Let's Play Hockey at 612-729-0023.
In addition to on-ice talent, criteria for the Let's Play Hockey Ms. Hockey Award include academics, community/extracurricular activities, citizenship and coachability.