Wednesday, 28 March 2012 09:27

Ex-Swift Current Wildcat helps Minnesota win National Collegiate Assoc.’s hockey title

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

By Brad Brown — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
If revenge is a dish best served cold, Baylee Gillanders and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s hockey team have perfected the art.

A year after losing 5-4 in overtime to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship game, the Gophers avenged the loss on the coldest and largest stage of all: the NationalCollegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Frozen Four national championship game.

Gillanders assisted on Amanda Kessel’s game-opening goal and Minnesota skated to a 4-2 win, claiming the school’s first national women’s hockey title since 2005.

The final was played in front of 2,500 fans March 18 in Duluth, Minn., about 250 kilometres north of the university’s main campus in Minneapolis.

“It was a good feeling because last year in the WCHA final they beat us so we were standing on the other blue line feeling upset, and it was really exciting to feel what it was like on the other side of that,” said Gillanders, a product of Kyle and sophomore student at Minnesota.

Gillanders is no stranger to winning. She reached three Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League finals with the Swift Current Wildcats from 2007-09, winning the Mac’s Tournament twice along the way.

This, however, almost defied words.

“Nothing can compare to this win against Wisconsin in the final,” said Gillanders. “Teams work for this chance to make the Frozen Four all year so it’s very special just to make it, and then to win it is just incredible.

“Hands down, this is one of the best experiences of my life. It’s awesome.”

While the win itself was no miracle, everything surrounding it may have felt that way.

“There’s so many people there supporting you throughout the whole weekend — media, fans, coaches, teammates — that you kind of feel like you’re walking on water the whole time that you’re there,” said Gillanders.

Bemidji State men’s hockey assistant coach Bert Gilling once likened the Frozen Four experience to being a rock star, and Gillanders was quick to agree with that assessment.

“I would say that’s a pretty good comparison because … for (being at) such a big school, there were quite a few people that knew what was going on,” she said. “When we were going to games there were tons of people sending us off. There was a big van that lots of students came out on to help cheer us on, and when we got back, they had a big fan base waiting outside the rink for us.

“It seemed like everywhere you’d go, if someone saw that you were playing women’s hockey they’d stop and congratulate you.”

A member of the WCHA’s all-rookie team in 2010-11, and recipient of all-academic honours this season, Gillanders will return in the fall for a third season with the Gophers.

She’ll be looking to repeat as champion, no doubt, but win or lose, the memories of this season will last a lifetime.

“Being so close we had tons of friends and family in the stands cheering for us,” she said. “When we played Wisconsin in final the crowd was huge because they’re close to Duluth too and the fan base was pretty even, so when either team scored all you could hear was noise and their fans.”

Read 898 times

More In SW Sask Sports...

More In Entertainment...