Meet the New Gophers, Part 1

Over the first thirteen years of the Gopher hockey program, a hundred athletes earned varsity letters. Befitting tradition, plenty of them hailed from Minnesota, but fourteen other states were represented as well, plus the countries of Finland and Canada.

Canada produced thirteen letterwinners, or an average of one recruit from north of the border every year. This season, that average ticks up slightly as three Canadians begin their University of Minnesota odyssey. During the week preceding the Gophers’ trip to St. Cloud, they provided Slap Shot! a glimpse of their past and plans for the future.

Photos courtesy University of Minnesota

Baylee Gillanders


One of two members of this incoming class to have graduated from the Warner Hockey School in Warner, Alberta, Baylee Gillanders is also the third sibling of her family to venture to the United States to further her education while playing hockey. Her brother Dustin completed his career at Colgate in 2008, while sister Kali is a Clarkson junior.

 

Gillanders is originally from Kyle, Saskatchewan, which she describes as, “a great place to be if you ever want to go to Canada.”

 

“It’s my home, so I love it,” she said. “Around my town, (there is) lots of farming, and my family is big on that.”

 

Gillanders said that having older siblings who had gone through recruiting, college selection, and making the transition was a great asset.

 

“They helped me along with trying to make decisions and getting prepared for everything.”

 

Although following in her brother and sister’s path to some extent, she didn’t follow them as far east when picking a school.

 

“Minnesota just felt like the right place for me,” Gillanders said. “I really enjoyed it when I came for my visits. I just felt like I wanted to be a Gopher.”

 

Having spent a couple of years attending a boarding school was a plus in making the adjustment to college life.

 

“Warner helped me moving away from home, just getting used to not having your parents around or being in your house kind of thing,” Gillanders said.

 

That doesn’t mean that the move to the Twin Cities was entirely seamless.

 

“It’s a big adjustment for the amount of people around, because Kyle, Sask. is a place of 500,” Gillanders said.

 

She said that on the ice, the biggest change is getting accustomed to the high level at which the game is played in Division I.

 

“Baylee is still kind of coming into her own,” coach Brad Frost said. “It takes a little longer when you’re a defenseman. Especially this year with our injuries, she’s kind of been thrown into the fire here and there.”

 

The injuries on the Gopher blue line have also made it difficult to establish a consistent rotation. Gillanders says that it has not been that difficult playing with a variety of partners in games.

 

“In practice we switch off; we don’t really have defense partners. You just hope everyone is healthy – it  just makes it a lot easier and obviously helps our defense be a lot stronger in the back end.”

 

Her coach thinks that a little seasoning is all that Gillanders lacks.

 

“It’s important for her to continue to play with confidence, because she’s an incredible defenseman, and (we’re) expecting pretty big things from her,” Frost said. “It’s just the more reps that she gets and the more games that we play, the more comfortable she’ll be.”

 

One factor that increases the comfort level for Gillanders is being joined on the Gophers by former Warner teammate Sarah Davis.

 

“You go through struggles, and you also have your friends to get you back up there and help you stay positive with your games,” Gillanders said.

 

Beyond the hockey, there are always decisions regarding careers and degrees with which to wrestle.

 

“I obviously want to get a good job out of this,” Gillanders said. “Some areas I’m looking at are working with children or something that has to do with sports, but I’m still undecided. Kind of going through the phases and trying to figure out what classes I like and what ones I don’t.”

Sarah Davis

 

Sarah Davis is the first Gopher from the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with her hometown being the optimistically named Paradise.

 

“It’s an island, the most east of Canada,” Davis said of Newfoundland. “It’s known for fishing; there’s really not a whole lot that goes on there.”

 

One thing that does happen there, as in every corner of the country, is young people like Davis taking up the game of hockey.

 

“I used to figure skate, and then my brother who is two years older than me started playing hockey, and I was kind of like the little sister that always followed him around,” she said. “I wanted to be just like him, so I got into hockey, too.”

 

Eventually hockey got Davis into the Warner Hockey School, where she studied and played for the last two years. Though that was a first taste of life on her own, it didn’t prepare her for living on the Minnesota campus.

 

“ I’ve lived away from home, but to live away from home and have this much freedom is kind of a culture shock, but I’m enjoying it so far,” she said. “Coming from Warner, there is a lot more freedom here, let me tell you.”

 

Luckily, Davis could see herself fitting into Minnesota as a whole while going through the recruiting process.

 

“They just have a good program and good education. I really liked when I visited, so I decided to come here.”

 

When you attend a school a couple of time zones away, plus an extra half time zone for good measure, your family doesn’t get many opportunities to watch you play hockey.

 

“They were (at the games with) Clarkson, and my mom, my dad and my brother are hoping to come to a weekend in Minnesota just to see everything,” Davis said.

 

One thing that they’ll see is Davis quickly adapting to the game on the ice.

 

“I think she’s playing quite well, centering one of our two top lines,” Frost said. “She’s a very intelligent hockey player, has great hands, and she’s a little snake-bit currently in the goal-scoring department, but I’m pretty sure that will come soon.”

 

“I don’t expect to score every game, or have chances every game like I did in high school, but I was kind of hoping I’d at least have one goal by now, yeah,” Davis said. “But I just got to work through that, obviously.”

 

Work through it she did – Davis scored a goal in each of the next three games following our interview.

 

“She distributes the puck,” Frost said. “She’s kind of the Bobbi Ross type in the sense that she’s not going to fly up and down the rink, but she makes her mark in many other things.”

 

“When we recruited her, we felt like she has the talent to be on the Canadian national team one day, and she’s not there yet, but if she keeps improving and getting better, she will be.”

 

A youngster growing up in Canada has no shortage of great players to follow and admire.

 

“My favorite all-time player is Steve Yzerman, but he’s obviously retired,” Davis said. “Right now, it would be Sydney Crosby.”

 

Davis said she has also had to adjust to the volume of homework required attending university. Beyond that work outside of class, one must select a major and possible vocation, which she has yet to do.

 

“I’m just taking general courses right now:  psychology, French, freshman writing, but I’m thinking maybe business is well known here, so that could be a possibility,” Davis said. “Or an elementary teacher working with kids, something along those lines.”

Kelly Terry
 

Minnesota has had hockey players from the greater Toronto area before, but it has been ten years since the last one started her Gopher career – long enough that no hint of recognition appears on the face of Whitby, Ontario’s Kelly Terry at the mention of the name of La Toya Clarke, who hailed from nearby Pickering.

 

The Terry family operates a sporting goods store in Whitby, so Kelly is accustomed to being around the game.

 

“I think hockey is just everything to do with my family, from how we make a living to what we do in our spare time, so it’s pretty interesting,” she said.

 

At one point, her father made his living from hockey more directly, pursuing a professional career that included a handful of games with the Minnesota North Stars.

 

“We kind of thought of it as an omen, like this is the right school for me,” Terry said. “I guess we joked about it a little bit. I loved the school, but that was something we thought about and made the connection there.”

 

Although a bit of family history can get a recruiter’s foot in the door, it takes more to get a commitment from a student athlete.

 

“I really liked the hockey program,” Terry said. “The arena and everything is just great, and of course, the schooling, that’s also what I was looking for. I’m not really sure what I want to do, so coming to the ‘U’ is good because it seems to have a lot of options for me.”

 

Unlike others in her incoming class, Terry did not have a lot of experience playing with or against her Gopher teammates.

 

“I knew Baylee Gillanders and Sarah Davis as freshmen coming in; I went to Canada camps with them,” Terry said. “I didn’t know anybody else on the team. I knew of them, but I wasn’t really friends with them yet.”

 

To complicate her introduction to her new team, Terry had to attend a Hockey Canada camp for a week just as Gopher practices began in earnest.

 

“It was kind of bad timing to miss a week; I wish I was there,” she said. “But a the same time, the girls are just awesome, I’m having a lot of fun with them, and they’re really welcoming to the freshmen.”

 

One way to advance acceptance on a new team is to contribute on the ice, so Terry was glad to find the back of the net for the first time wearing maroon & gold in the season’s second home game versus North Dakota.

 

“It was kind of a relief,” she said. “I felt like I was getting a few really good chances in the games before that, and just couldn’t seem to finish, so when I finally got that first goal, I was pretty much jumping out of my skin in excitement.”

 

Of course, scoring goals isn’t the only way a player can contribute.

 

“I’ve always been a pretty good two-way player,” Terry said. “Of course, I’m on the wing now, so that’s something I have to adjust – got to focus more on the offense.  I like to use my speed, but at the same time, I think about my plus/minus and I really don’t like being scored on.”

 

Speed she has in abundance.

 

“Tremendous speed – kind of sneaky fast like a little jet that shoots out there,” Brad Frost said. “Her (second) goal was a good example of that. Just a loose puck and the defender was even with her and all of a sudden she just took off and won the race. She provides a lot of great energy, good pressure on the puck, and I think the ceiling is pretty high for her as well.”

 

Fast skaters who are relentless on the forecheck have been the standard for Gopher forwards over the years.

 

“We want to be a team that’s built around speed and skill, and she provides a lot of speed and continues to put that pressure on,” Frost said.

 

Terry is currently majoring in food science, but says there is a good chance that will change.

 

“I just picked that because it was basically the route I wanted to go, something in the sciences, but of course, I probably won’t stick with it. Just getting my basic science courses and then hopefully, I can do something in medicine. Just take a few years after the U and become a physician’s assistant or something.”

 

In light of the events leading up to a recent Gopher appearance at the Frozen Four, perhaps a practical application of food science may prove beneficial in preventing an ill-timed attack of food poisoning.

 

“I haven’t gotten into the detailed courses of food sciences, but if I can fix that type of thing, I’ll definitely help the team in the future,” Terry said.

 

For now, she’ll have to continue to help the Gophers in more conventional ways.

 

In the next issue of Slap Shot!, we’ll meet the rest of the Gopher rookies, Amanda Kessel, Bethany Brausen, and Ashley Stenerson.


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