Oct. 16, 2012
Defenseman Lee Stecklein came to the storied Golden Gopher hockey program from a high school with a rich hockey history of its own. She helped Roseville Area High School to a state championship as a sophomore in 2010. After their fourth straight Suburban East Conference title last year, the Raiders ended the season as state runners-up. Stecklein was a finalist for the Ms. Hockey Award. Stecklein has extensive experience with USA Hockey, including winning a U-18 World Championships medal with Team USA in Sweden in 2011.
Q: Talk about what it was like playing in a high school program that has such a rich tradition.
A: It was great. Growing up, it was awesome to watch, and I knew I always wanted to be on the varsity team. Bethany (Brausen), I’ve always looked up to her because she’s a couple years older than me, so watching her start high school was fun. It was really cool to get the chance to play with her there and then now again here.
Q: What was it like winning the state championship in 2010?
A: It was amazing. We tried last year, but my sophomore year we had such a great team. We worked so well together. Just to have your community there for you like that was a really cool experience.
Q: You had your first point as a Gopher against St. Cloud State. How did it feel to get on the score sheet for the first time?
A: I don’t pay much attention to points, but this did feel cool because it’s my first time as a Gopher. I was really happy. It felt like a critical point in the game for Meghan (Lorence) to score the goal, too, so I thought that was cool. It’s not something I pay a lot of attention to, but it’s still nice.
Q: What have you liked best about the University of Minnesota so far?
A: There’s so much. It’s been one of the best months of my life. I love living on my own, I love playing on the team, and I love college compared to high school.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a Gopher, or did you consider other schools?
A: I always wanted to be a Gopher. I committed before my junior year, so I’ve known for a while I wanted to come here. I knew since I was a little girl that I wanted to come here.
Q: How good did it feel to put on the ‘M’ sweater for the first time?
A: It’s incredible. The first time we put on the jerseys was for pictures, but it was still a special moment to wear the ‘M’ finally.
Q: What were some of the highlights of the times you played in Europe during high school and this past offseason?
A: Sweden was incredible. We won the gold medal on my U-18 team at the World Championships. It was amazing. I got to play with a bunch of friends of mine, and it was the best hockey I’ve ever seen. Every experience has been different. I went to Finland this summer to play with a bunch of girls from different countries. We were all on the same team together. To see what they do to play hockey, that was incredible.
Q: Talk about being part of this talented Gopher freshman class.
A: It’s great. I knew Hannah (Brandt) and Milica (McMillen) growing up, and I was able to play with Maryanne (Menefee) in the Czech Republic this year. So coming in I knew that they were a great bunch of girls and they’re obviously amazing at hockey. It’s been fun. We all get along really well off ice, too.
Q: What are you looking forward to the rest of your freshman season?
A: Actually, the first road trip. [This interview took place the day before the Gophers left to play St. Lawrence.] I think it’s going to be fun. It’s a long one, but that will be fun. And I love coming to hockey every day.
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