Nov. 25, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS – Head coach Brad Frost and the University of Minnesota women’s hockey program are pleased to announce the addition of four student-athletes for the 2014-15 season. Sydney Baldwin, Kelly Pannek, Cara Piazza and Nina Rodgers have signed with the Golden Gophers and will join the team in the fall of 2014.
"This class of recruits has an incredible blend of speed, skill and toughness," head coach Brad Frost said. "Each of them has tremendous international experience as they have all played on the United States Under-18 Team. They will add greatly to our culture both in the classroom and on the ice. I am extremely happy that they have chosen to call the University of Minnesota their home for their next four years."
A left-handed defenseman from Minnetonka, Minn., Sydney Baldwin is a three-time Minnesota Class AA state champion with Minnetonka High School. Baldwin, a four-year letterwinner for the Skippers, helped Minnetonka to three-straight Lake Conference titles en route to back-to-back-to-back state championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013. She is a three-time Minnesota State all-tournament team honoree and was named to the Star Tribune All-Metro first team last season. Baldwin has skated with the U.S. Under-18 team and attended USA Hockey development camps. She also plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps and competes in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. The daughter of Dick and Gail Baldwin, she is interested in majoring in human resources or business management.
Frost on Baldwin: "Sydney is a smooth-skating defenseman with great size and skill. She has a heavy shot and will be relied upon immediately to contribute at both ends of the rink."
Why Minnesota: "I chose the University of Minnesota because I felt it offered the best fit both from an athletic and academic perspective. After visiting multiple campuses throughout the Midwest, the U of M was a clear standout with the best women’s hockey program in the country and a world-renowned school of business. From my very first visit to campus, the coaches, players, faculty and students made me feel right at home. I just felt comfortable with the entire experience. My goals for the next four years are to fully develop my hockey skills, contribute to the success of the women’s hockey program and graduate with a degree in business. The University of Minnesota offered the best opportunity to achieve those goals and represent my home state as an official Gopher," Baldwin said.
Kelly Pannek joins the Gophers from Plymouth, Minn. A right-handed forward at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Pannek is a two-time all-state honoree. She helped lead the Knights to back-to-back North Suburban Conference championships and two section runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2013. Pannek, a six-time hockey letterwinner, has surpassed the 50-point mark in each of the last four seasons, including a 76-point junior year with the Knights (31g-45a). She has international experience with the U.S. Under-18 team, USA Hockey development campus and the 2013 IIHF High Performance Camp in England. Pannek was named Minnesota Ms. Soccer this fall after leading the Knights to the Minnesota Class A state title. She is the daughter of Molly and Todd Pannek.
Frost on Pannek: "Kelly is a very intelligent forward who has great hands and vision. She is able to control the game and see things develop faster than most players."
Why Minnesota: "I chose the University of Minnesota because I really like the coaching staff and how they run the program, as well as the quality of education the U provides. I also love the atmosphere of the campus," Pannek said.
Cara Piazza, a left-handed forward from Darien, Ill., is an assistant captain for the Chicago Mission Girls U-19 club team and attends Downers Grove South High School. Piazza and the Chicago Mission were runners-up at the USA Hockey Girls' Tier I National Championship in 2013 and 2011. Piazza led the Mission to the 2013 NAHA Labor Day Tournament title along with a second-place finish at the 2013 Stoney Creek Tournament, where she was named the MVP of the final game. Piazza has skated with the 2013 U.S. Under-18 team along with attending USA Hockey development camps. The daughter of Tom and Sue Piazza, she intends to major in chemistry with a minor in Spanish.
Frost on Piazza: "Cara is a fast, tenacious forward who relentlessly pursues the puck. She has great finish to her game while also creating opportunities for her teammates."
Why Minnesota: "I fell in love with the University of Minnesota as soon as I walked on campus. The academics are great, and I felt so comfortable around the players and coaches. It's such a successful program with a great reputation – I can't see myself going anywhere else," Piazza said.
A Minnetonka, Minn., native, Nina Rodgers joins the Gophers from Hopkins High School where she helped the Royals to a third-placing showing at the Minnesota State AA tournament in 2010. Rodgers, a 5-4 right-handed forward, has attended four USA Hockey development camps along with competing for the U.S. Under-18 team at the 2013 IIHF U-18 Women's World Championship and in the 2013 Women's Under-18 Series against Canada in Lake Placid, N.Y. Rodgers also skates with the Minnesota Junior Whitecaps and plays in the Minnesota High School Fall Elite League. The daughter of Michele Rodgers, she intends to major in physics.
Frost on Rodgers: "Nina is a strong forward with a release second to none. She puts herself in great positions to score and when she has an opening, it is usually in the net."
Why Minnesota: "The reason I chose the University of Minnesota is because it feels like home. I have always wanted to be a Gopher, and the U offers so many opportunities for my future," Rodgers said.
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