MINNEAPOLIS - To say the Golden Gopher women's hockey program was well-represented at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, is an understatement. Six Gophers won gold with Team USA, and two more alumnae won bronze with Finland.
Having eight individuals from the Gopher women's hockey program skate on the world's stage was an incredible source of pride both internally within the program and for Gopher fans. However, Olympic glory did not come easy for these Gophers; in fact, most of them overcame significant adversity to fulfill their Olympic dreams this year.
"I think it's the perseverance that we know a lot about, being in Minnesota," head coach Brad Frost said. "Amanda Kessel basically retired. We had a conversation and she said, 'I don't think I'm ever going to play again.' And then a short time later, she was able to say, 'Hey, I've got some new treatment and am feeling a lot better'."
Read more from USA Hockey: Escape From The Darkness
Kessel's Olympic linemate also overcame adversity on their Olympic journeys. Dani Cameranesi faced an untimely injury during her senior season with the Gophers, and Hannah Brandt was one of the last cuts from the 2014 U.S. Women's Olympic Team.
"Dani worked really hard to get back to where she is now," Frost said. "To be on that national team is a credit to her -- her hard work and her ability to preserve and fight through."
"I had been out of the game and not in the USA jersey for a while," Cameranesi said. "Working hard and coming back and being able to put the Red, White, and Blue on again has been really special for me this year."
Read more from GopherSports.com: Full Strength: Cameranesi Cherishes Olympic Opportunity
-- Minnesota W Hockey (@GopherWHockey) February 26, 2018
"Hannah getting cut four years ago -- that really stung as one of the last cuts," Frost said. "Then, not only to make it, but to get over there with her sister who was playing for South Korea. What's better than that?"
Instead of letting the disappointment of missing the 2014 Olympics bring her down, Brandt used it as an opportunity to work harder and grow into a player that Team USA couldn't pass up for the 2018 Olympics.
Mira Jalosuo faced similar devastation when she was cut from Finland's Olympic team in 2010; she persevered and made her Olympic debut with a fifth-place finish in 2014. Jalosuo's dream to win an Olympic medal came true this year when she helped Finland take home bronze.
Last cut in 2010, fifth place in 2014, and a bronze medal in 2018 - what an Olympic journey it's been for @MiraJalosuo! #UMNproud #GopherOlympians 〽️🇫🇮
👀➡️ https://t.co/tAxln6QRCc pic.twitter.com/MjvxOVLHGe
-- Minnesota W Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 1, 2018
Gigi Marvin, the eldest player on Team USA, overcame injuries of her own on the way to representing the Red, White, and Blue in her third Olympic Games this year. After the 2014 Olympic Games, Marvin stepped away from hockey with hopes her body would respond positively to rest instead of going through surgery to repair structural damage.
Read more from the Star Tribune: Years of Therapy, Prayer Get Team USA's Gigi Marvin Back on Ice, to Olympics
-- Minnesota W Hockey (@GopherWHockey) February 24, 2018
Another one of the most experience Gopher Olympians, Noora Raty continues to overcome barriers. From retiring from women's hockey after the 2014 Olympic Games and excelling in men's hockey in Europe to returning to the women's game in the CWHL and competing in her fourth Olympic Games this year, Raty's hockey career is nothing short of monumental.
-- Minnesota W Hockey (@GopherWHockey) February 28, 2018
"I've been getting a lot of congratulations," Frost said following the Olympic Games. "While that's nice to hear, and to have a small part in what they have accomplished, what people don't see is what they do day in and day out to try to reach that gold medal. We're just so happy for all of them."
Whitecaps Add Two More Gopher Alums
6/20/2018 - W. Ice Hockey
Hannah Brandt and Lee Stecklein have signed contracts to play with the Minnesota Whitecaps for the 2018-19 season.
Raty Returns to Kunlun Red Star
6/19/2018 - W. Ice Hockey
Gophers alum Noora Raty has re-signed with the CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star for the 2018-19 season.
Leveille Returns to State of Hockey
6/18/2018 - W. Ice Hockey
University of Minnesota alumna Amanda Leveille has signed with the NWHL's Minnesota Whitecaps for the 2018-19 season.