Friday, 22 March 2013 13:16

Kyle’s Gillanders excited as University of Minnesota team enjoys dream season

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 Baylee Gillanders, in her University of Minnesota Gophers' jersey sings the national anthem with Jay Onrait in her hometown of Kyle last August while TSN was doing its Kraft Celebration tour in 2011. Baylee Gillanders, in her University of Minnesota Gophers' jersey sings the national anthem with Jay Onrait in her hometown of Kyle last August while TSN was doing its Kraft Celebration tour in 2011.

It can’t get much better for Kyle’s Baylee Gillanders and her University of Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team. Well, it can, they just have to take care of business at home in Minneapolis this weekend.


The Gophers are hosting the NCAA’s Frozen Four Women’s hockey championship this weekend in their sold-out Ridder Arena home. They open playing the Boston College Eagles. Boston University and Maryhurst are also in this year’s NCAAtournament.
Gillanders agreed it’s been an amazing season: 39-0 overall; a goals for/against differential of 207-31; winning their final game in triple overtime (118 minutes, 51 seconds and the longest game in the Gophers’ history); playing on a team which will have players being named best in the country and high notoriety in a state which loves its hockey nearly as much as Canada does. It’s been fun, but now is not the time to reflect and rest.
“We’ve come this far and we’re coming from a season last year (where they also made the Frozen Four),” explained the 5’11' defenceman who said the publicity has been incredible. “We talk about it all the time. We’ve got camera crews coming down here all the time to cover our practices. We have to focus on the game at hand. We’ve got a lot of good girls here who take it in stride. We’re going to have some players winning awards and being named the best players in the country and they’re still humble.”
Megan Bozek will be on the U.S. Women’s Olympic team and Amanda Kessel is the sister of Phil Kessel who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs to name a few of the aforementioned players.
Gillanders said there was a lot of pressure on the team, even so much, some fans thought it might be better to lose a game during the course of the season so as to not have that ‘undefeated’ label hanging over them.
However, that didn’t happen and the Gophers, coached by Brad Frost, now have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and all of the games in the Frozen Four. Having the last change during a course of a game, playing in the home fans arena, enjoying their home dressing room — it’s all a plus. 
They’re focused and playing a triple overtime game “was an eye-opener.” They won’t become complacent or distracted by being at home because they want to win.
The Gophers’ first test — Boston College — had been ranked number two throughout the year up until last weekend where they dropped a couple of pre-tournament games. Gillanders said the Eagles are fast, have a good goalie and are a really good team.
Gillanders had a good season too. She was “very happy” with her overall play. She scored once, had 11 assists but also enjoyed a +65 plus/minus rating — the third best on a talent-laden team.
Gillanders said when she’s out and about in Minneapolis, if the topic comes up that she plays for the Gophers, it’s always an emphatic response.
“It’s incredible. If they ask, I’ll tell people I play for the Gophers and they’re excited. It’s a big thing here. The fans all try to keep up with everything the university (sports) teams do,” explained Gillanders, who is not overwhelmed or nervous about the fanaticism. “I love it. The fans really get into it. The fans are always cheering loud. When I first got here as a rookie, I was taken aback at first, but now ... they really understand the game and that makes it so much fun.”

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Ryan Dahlman

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