Meet the Freshmen – Part II

 

Previously, we learned a little about the Canadian half of this year’s rookie class. In this issue, three players who competed on Minnesota-based teams last season share some background information with us.

 

Photos courtesy University of Minnesota

Bethany Brausen

 

In the early days of the Minnesota program, alumni of Roseville Area High School were a staple of the team’s roster. After a four-season stretch without Roseville appearing in the “previous team” column, Bethany Brausen brings back the school once listed after names like Brodt and Curtin.

 

“I knew of those girls, and I talked to a lot of them on a consistent basis; they’re mentors to me,” Brausen said. “Following in their footsteps was something that I wanted to do. With the fact that they went to the ‘U’, and I had that opportunity presented to myself, I definitely wanted to be in that list of names.”

 

Brausen is on another prestigious list, women who played for the Gophers after being named Ms. Hockey in Minnesota as high school seniors.

 

“I talked with Becky Kortum, she’s my roommate and one of my best friends on the team, and she won the award the year previous to me,” Brausen said. “We just talk about, ‘Why me?’ There’s so many great players and great talent. When you’re out there, you’re not really thinking I’m the best player. Never does that cross your mind. You’re just playing your game, you love it, and I guess sometimes that works out [well]. It was obviously an honor, and very, very humbling.”

 

It also worked out well for her team, as the Raiders won the Minnesota Class AA Championship in last year.

 

“That to me meant everything, and it was one of the best experiences in my life,” Brausen said.

 

After skating on Roseville’s top line since her freshman year in high school and being one of the team’s top scorers, Brausen has had to adapt at Minnesota.

 

“She’s accepted that third-line center role and has been doing a really good job defensively, distributing the puck, and finally got rewarded with her first goal,” coach Brad Frost said. “It’s really different for her, because she’s not being relied on to score. She’s not getting as many opportunities, and when she does get those opportunities, she’s not cashing in as often as she was in high school. I think she’s adjusting quite well.”

 

“The transition – at first it’s kind of different, but by no means is it bad,” Brausen said. “It’s definitely cool to step into a different role, different shoes to fill. That’s when you start learning stuff, is when you’re doing things differently that you were before. I’ve learned a ton already, and I feel like every day I’m improving and learning more.”

 

She’s also learning off the ice and has found college life to be slightly different than what she visualized.

 

“There haven’t been huge changes,” Brausen said. “In the aspect of what I wanted it to be, it’s reached that goal and it’s exceeded it by so much. I’m having so much fun. I guess the big difference is girls from other countries that came here. That would be the biggest cultural change, meeting those girls that are from other states, other countries. It’s a little busier, a little more exciting.”

 

Brausen’s future plans are still taking shape at this point.

 

“I’m kind of deciding right now between journalism and kinesiology, so it’s two totally different ends of the map. In my wildest dreams, if I could somehow land a job coaching at some point in the future, that would obviously take the cake. Just for stuff that I would study for school, maybe something with advertising and sports management. I think that it would be cool to stay in the business of sports. If I decide to go kinesiology, just working with people, physical therapy – interacting with other people and helping them.”

Amanda Kessel

 

Wisconsin native Amanda Kessel is no stranger to our state, having studied the last four years at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault. She played on two U-19 national championship teams while there, including one as a teammate of Jen Schoullis in her first season with the Sabres.

 

“I think she’s definitely a similar style player as she was back then,” Schoullis said. “She’s a very skilled player, fast, finesse – definitely a playmaker.”

 

When it came time to select a college, she followed the path of older brother Phil, choosing Minnesota over the hometown University of Wisconsin-Madison program.

 

“I didn’t necessarily want to be like 15 minutes from home,” Kessel said. “I kind of liked just to get away, and I’d been in Minnesota for four years for high school, and my brother coming here, and I just liked everything about Minnesota.”

 

Badger fans weren’t too tolerant of her brother’s decision when Phil returned to the Kohl Center with the Gophers to face Wisconsin, abusing him verbally when he stepped on the ice. His sister doubts she’ll get the same reception.

 

“I remember going to that game, and they had towels handed out kind of bad mouthing him, so I don’t think it’ll be like that,” she said. “Obviously girls don’t get as many fans.”

 

Should crowds in Madison mistreat her, Kessel plans to use it as a positive.

 

“It’s kind of fun actually, to take that, and it inspires you.”

 

An inspired Kessel has plenty of talent at her disposal. Coach Frost notes that beyond her straight-line speed, Kessel is very quick at changing directions.

 

“[She has] real good hands, and then some really nice vision, too; she distributes the puck really well,” he said. “Adding to the fact that she has the ability to score makes her a pretty all-around, complete player.”

 

Assistant coach Natalie Darwitz, who works primarily with the forwards, has the responsibility of helping Kessel maximize her talents.

 

“You always want to keep players getting better, getting more creative, challenging them,” Darwitz said. “With Amanda, you just have to go about it in a different way. She has a vision and a speed – what can you do next to get her in a better opportunity to score a goal.”

 

Beyond some nagging injuries that slowed her first half of the season, Kessel hasn’t found college to be that hard of an adjustment, on or off the ice.

 

“I was pretty well prepared, but there was more school work than I thought. I didn’t have as much at Shattuck.”

 

Her vision on the ice hasn’t yet translated into a vision of what career she plans to pursue.

 

“I don’t know, I’m kind of all over,” Kessel said. “I wish I could do like ten different jobs. I’m thinking something like business or communications.”

 

If she works as fast as she skates, she just may have time to do ten different jobs.

Ashley Stenerson

 

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

 

It is a safe bet that poet John Milton wasn’t thinking of women’s hockey when he penned that line. There are many roles on a hockey team, and some involve standing on the bench for entire periods or even games, being ready for a summons that may or may not come.

 

Ashley Stenerson has been assigned such a mission, and although it wouldn’t be her first choice, she’s not complaining.

 

“Everybody who is here obviously wants to play every shift, but coming in, I kind of knew that I wouldn’t get much playing time,” she said. “So I guess for me, my games are practice, and I just have to make myself better everyday. When I’m surrounded by a team who is just amazing, it makes it a little less hard.”

 

Stenerson is currently skating on a line with junior Nikki Ludwigson and sophomore Katie Frischmann, who have had to patiently wait for their shifts on the ice in past seasons.

 

“Nikki and Frisch are great – always smiles on their faces, which obviously makes it for me as a younger one just to keep that smile on my face and stay positive,” Stenerson said.

 

For a time, it appeared that her collegiate hockey future would lie somewhere other than Minnesota.

 

“When we were going through the recruiting process, I told her that we weren’t going to have room for her,” Coach Frost said. “But then Katie Frischmann had her shoulder surgery this summer, and I just thought, boy, we’d better have one more player that can maybe play forward and D. She really came in as a player that I told she may not dress all year if everybody stays healthy, but she said, ‘Coach, that is the most exciting news I have ever heard. I have wanted to be a Gopher all my life, and I would be willing to do anything.’ For her, it’s an even better situation than she thought coming in. She’s at least on the bench and getting a shift here and there. But she is just a selfless player and would do anything for our team. We need players like that.”

 

Stenerson was glad the recruiting situation developed as it did.

 

“I was thinking about going out east. I took a visit out there, and I came home and I just realized how much I love Minnesota. That’s what I’ve wanted since I was five years old.”

 

Which is right around the time Stenerson first started playing hockey.

 

“I had two older brothers who played. I think when I was like 3 or 4 months old I went to my first hockey game, all bundled up. Growing up I always wanted to be like my oldest brother Matt and play hockey. I was 5 or 6 years old and Matt and my dad took me out to the rink and it just started there.”

 

Dreams of maroon and gold become more tangible when one sees another person turn them into reality. In Stenerson’s case, the one blazing the trail was former Moorhead Spud and Golden Gopher Maggie Souba.

 

“I grew up watching her play,” Stenerson said. “In our youth rink, there are pictures of all the D-I people, and there’s a big picture of her in her jersey, and I always wanted to be just like her. It’s pretty cool. I’ve talked to her a little bit since I’ve been here, just seeing how everything is going, and she’s just been great.”

 

Stenerson got additional exposure to the Gopher program when she played with the Junior Whitecaps during the summers.

 

“Just making those friends when there are countless girls from that team coming here now and Bethany. Being able to play at that pace and that skill level just makes you be on your best every game, so it’s really fun.”

 

Even with all of the preparation, she’s found that there are adjustments to be made for a D-I student athlete.

 

“The speed is a lot different, more talent,” Stenerson said. “There’s more practice, more lifting, video. And school is about the same for me, but it’s really nice to have that athletic academic help, just making sure we’re staying good on all of our homework and stuff.”

 

Stenerson is studying chemistry and taking pre-pharmacy requirements with the hope of gaining admission to pharmacy school.

 

“I think I want to stay down here when I’m older,” she said. “Just be like a local pharmacist in a little shop somewhere down here.”



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