From Breck to the U of M, the Lindsay sisters have a healthy competition.
What are some of the first words that come to mind when attempting to describe an athlete?
Talented. Dedicated. Focused.
There’s one word, though, that quite accurately describes both Sadie and Ava Lindsay — Competitive.
For athletes, it’s common to be naturally competitive, to have that desire to find something to beat anyone at. Ping Pong, a footrace, arm wrestling, even checkers. For Sadie and Ava, both forwards on the No. 2-ranked Gophers’ women’s hockey team, they not only have that competitive itch, but have been able to fulfill that with one another nearly their whole lives in the sport they love and grew up playing together.
“I think growing up, it was always Ava and I competing,” the elder sister Sadie said. “It’s kind of how you both learned how to play. It’s been really cool to see that competition transform now into becoming teammates now and playing for the same school.”
Sadie, now a junior forward at Minnesota, said that both she and her sister learned to skate, play and love the game from their father, J., who also played college hockey, skating at Denver in the early 1990s.
That love of hockey trickled down to both Sadie and Ava and gave them a chance to showcase their competitive nature, although it is all in good fun on the ice.
“From a young age, we’d always be out on a backyard pond playing together and competing against each other, doing 1-on-1s,” Ava, the younger of the two and a freshman on the Gophers, said. “Now, even today sometimes at practice we’ll be up against each other, and it will be so fun going against each other and battling, getting a little feisty out there for sure, but I think just having someone … we’re so close in age that we’re really able to push each other and make each other better that way.”
As one can imagine, this is just the latest instance of playing on the same team together for the duo. Despite being at different levels the past two seasons with Ava still in high school and Sadie playing for the Gophers, they managed to win three Class 1A state championships together at Breck back-to-back-to-back from 2018 to 2020.
Sadie recalled the last state tournament in 2020 as her favorite memory from high school. It definitely makes sense, as both her and Ava had double-digit points in the six games they played in the playoffs that year. Now, after Ava spent two years at Minnetonka to finish out her high school career, the two are together again with the Gophers, the team they dreamed of playing for someday when they were younger.
Aside from just being best friends off the ice, Sadie helped ease Ava’s transition into the college ranks this season. That transition has been a good one, considering Ava has provided some immediate impact this season and is being put into many different situations early on in her career.
“[Ava’s] playing in all situations right now as a freshman which is a pretty big deal,” head coach Brad Frost said. “She’s on our power play, she’s killing penalties and playing a regular shift and that’s hard as a freshman, but, she’s handled it really well.”
When talking about Sadie’s time with the Gophers, Frost said that she’s really coming into her own now this season. Her first two years with the Gophers, Sadie battled injury and played in limited games. Her sister Ava has seen how extensive her recovery process was over the past year to get back this season and admires her tenacity.
“I’m just really proud of her,” Ava said. “Just seeing how focused and disciplined she’s been in making a comeback and being able to play.”
On top of just being able to play, Sadie scored her first collegiate goal on Dec. 2 against Bemidji State, a culmination of the hard work she’s put in to get healthy again and playing regular shifts. As Frost put it, in addition to her excellent edge work and vision, she’s someone who can continue to produce for this team the rest of the way.
As for the rest of the season, the Gophers have plenty to look forward to as one of the top teams in the country with title hopes not just in the WCHA but to also the whole country. This long-term pursuit is another thing, as Sadie said, that athletes can get caught up in with the ongoing grind of a season.
“It’s easy to get stuck in the loop of like ‘ok, we got this, let’s go get more,’” Sadie said. “So, there’s definitely been times this season where I’ve just stopped and been like, ‘looking back, 8-year-old me would have been freaking out right now that I would be able to go practice with Ava,’ or just do the daily things that sometimes I take for granted now.”
For now, on top of the trek to the top of the collegiate hockey mountain, the Lindsay sisters are enjoying the little things. Taking in the time at the rink together, the time hanging out with each other, just to make the most of the fact that they’re back playing hockey together again.
“I just know that she always is my number one fan, and I’m hers,” Ava said. “So it’s super special to have that, someone I can go to if I’m feeling down or not confident or having a bad shift, she can fire me back up.”