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All In The Family

Madeline and Audrey Wethington define motivation and gratitude on and off the ice.

Fifth-year player Madeline Wethington and senior Audrey Wethington went from teammates with the Blake Bears to playing together with the University of Minnesota Gophers. (Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota / Gopher Sports and Brad Rempel.)

The Gopher women’s hockey team is no stranger to having a few of the same names appear on the backs of its jerseys. For Madeline and Audrey Wethington though, their long tenure playing for the home team at Ridder Arena is not only the culmination of lifelong dreams, but a testament to the extra-tight friendship between these two sisters.

“I think I look back and I reflect on the times where we got to have our names called back-to-back during the lineups [for the high school state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center], because she was No. 6 and I was No. 5,” Madeline said. “I was going to say No. 4 because she’s 4 now, but she was 6 back then. That was kind of partly why she chose No. 4 because 6 was unavailable [when she joined the Gophers] so we still wanted to be next to each other in the lineup.”

Best friends on and off the ice, despite the difference in position. Even while Madeline plays defense and Audrey is at forward, the two still have managed to end up on the same line together on more than one occasion.

Back in high school at Blake, then-coach Shawn Reid elevated Madeline to a forward when they needed a spark for a comeback. Reid didn’t just make her a forward but also placed her on a line with former Gophers-commit Addie Burton and Madeline’s younger sister, Audrey. Later, with the Gophers, when Minnesota’s defense was reeling with multiple members out of the lineup, Audrey shifted back to defense in games against St. Thomas as Madeline’s defensive partner.

It really worked because of Audrey’s smart, tenacious 200-foot style of game that makes her one of the most responsible forwards for the Gophers in all situations, not to mention the team leader in blocked shots. The shift in high school worked because Madeline’s eye for the net combined with her ability to drive offensively made it a decision worth making.

Audrey moves (to) forward with Gophers 
It’s a wonder any of these unorthodox decisions had to be made at all, considering Audrey’s departure from what became something of a family tradition. Madeline and Audrey are the two oldest of four sisters, the younger two being Jackie, a freshman on the University of Minnesota’s rowing team, and Addie, a freshman at Blake. Three sisters all ended up as left-shot defenders. Audrey must not have wanted to make it a clean sweep, because somehow, she ended up as the lone right-shot forward amongst the group.

“I was actually curious, and [my mom] was like ‘You were just all over the ice, like a little gnat out there, sometimes running around with your head chopped off, so we stuck you at forward.’” Audrey said. “She knew that I liked the forecheck, which is something I take pride in now. I think that’s pretty much it, I think she saw how close in age we were and thought it would be a great idea for us to play different positions.”

Gophers head coach Brad Frost agrees, as Audrey is one of the most responsible and trustworthy members of the team. He said on top of her technique, she has the instinctual wherewithal to be in the right shooting lanes and understands how to be there when the shot comes. While Frost said it was a no-brainer to bring Audrey to the team as well prior to the 2020-21 season, Audrey said she was preparing for the chance she might have to consider playing somewhere else.

“At the time, in high school, I knew I wanted to go here, but I wasn’t sure if this, obviously the University of Minnesota they have a top-notch team and they’re looking for top-notch girls, so with me developing later, I was like ‘I need to keep my options open,’” Audrey said. “So I went into the recruiting process with an open mind, but deep down inside I was like ‘I want to be a Gopher.’”

Additionally, with the turnover on defense that saw three experienced defensemen depart after the 2022-23 season, Frost more than welcomed having Madeline return for a fifth year. She’s been paired with fellow fifth-year player Taylor Stewart, who is in her first year with the Gophers but has known Madeline and Audrey since they were kids. Stewart said that both Madeline and Audrey have made her transition to the Gophers an extremely easy one, and have helped bring her into the family atmosphere that encompasses this team.

“[They’ve] made me feel very part of things right from the start, and I think that helps off the ice and ultimately transitions onto the ice as Maddie and I have been building chemistry as a D-pair, it’s been pretty exciting,” Stewart said. “She makes it really easy to play with, and I’ve enjoyed all of the shifts that we’ve been able to be together for.”

From L to R: Pictured in fall 2019, former Minnesota Whitecaps defenseman Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, former Whitecaps coach Jack Brodt, University of Minnesota defenseman Madeline Wethington and former Whitecaps defenseman Winny Brodt Brown. (MHM Photo by Rick Olson)

Hockey is a family tradition
While the family affair between the Wethingtons and hockey may seem to end with the sisters, it goes back a very long way. Madeline and Audrey are part of women’s hockey royalty in the state of Minnesota. Their aunts, Winny Brodt Brown and Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, both played for the Gophers and their mother, Kerry Wethington, was the head coach for the women’s hockey team at St. Cloud State for the first four years of that program’s existence from 1998-2002.

While Frost noted that the Gophers haven’t had any mother-daughter duos for the Gophers just yet in its 26th season of existence, Audrey and Madeline following in their aunts’ track to the Gophers is the first step toward that becoming more of a reality for this storied program.

“They’re truly trailblazers in the sport, especially in this state,” Madeline said. “I even look back at when I was younger and a lot of the best teams composed of having the girls play with the boys, and nowadays that’s not as common, like more and more girls are sticking to just playing with girls which I think is great.

“That means there are more and more girls playing. I look back at like my mom and aunts and they didn’t have that opportunity to play with just girls. Like, my aunts, with Winny, her senior year is when they first started high school hockey. So, she had to grow up playing with the boys all the way until the age of 16/17 years old.”

Added Audrey: “They always like to remind me that back when they played, my mom was targeted out there, she broke her collarbone, and she would have to get dressed in the bathroom. Seeing how far it’s come, they always like to remind me like, you know, just be appreciative of all that you got.”

While their relatives are trailblazers, both Audrey and Madeline are no strangers to working incredibly hard in whatever they do, on and off the ice. They not only manage to perform to the high standards of one of the most successful college hockey programs in the country, but both also have thrived in their academic pursuits. Taking advice and seeing how rewarding many members of their family have had in medicine, both have taken a very admirable route.

Audrey is graduating this fall from the College of Biological Sciences with a degree in biology and just applied to a Master’s program in biological sciences that could begin this coming spring. Madeline currently works in the Visible Heart Lab on campus at the University of Minnesota and has become passionate about the work she is doing with the research in that lab. After this season, she will look to take a year or two away from school to play professionally and continue the process of applying to medical school, which can take more than a year.

Right now though, both sisters are taking in every moment with each other. Not thinking of the big picture or reminiscing too much on the end, but just enjoying every moment of their time together on the Gophers, something they’ve both dreamed about since coming to games as little kids.

“I think we’ve always made each other better people and players out there,” Audrey said. “Enjoying the little things, the little routines, the walk to the rink, all those things that you can’t get back.”

Drew has a passion for just about all things hockey. He started covering the Gophers' men's hockey team in 2016 and has been around high schools and the pros ever since. Follow his regular hockey commentary (and other nonsense) on Twitter @covedrew and on the MNCAA podcast covering the Gophers as well as the college hockey scene across Minnesota.

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