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Stars Shine Beneath Wintry Blanket

Minnesota’s all-star women play hockey in snow-globe setting

MHM Photo / Jonny Watkins

MINNEAPOLIS – The blue lines weren’t visible. Neither were any of the faceoff circles. The ice surface for the rink at Parade Stadium was completely covered with falling snow that blew around in the air like a snow globe throughout the entire State of Hockey Women’s All-Star Game Friday evening.

What a setting for Hockey Day Minnesota, even if it made actually playing the game a bit more difficult.

“You don’t pick this,” said Kevin Gorg, who filled in as coach for Team Minnesota. “You don’t pick the snow, you don’t pick kind of climate we had tonight.

“But I will tell you that most of these kids grew up playing at some point outside when they were young.”

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Liv Halvorson, Nina Rodgers and Chelsey Brodt-Rosenthal of Team Minneapolis smile at what Mother Nature delivered on Friday night. (MHM Photo / Jonny Watkins)

Indeed, Taylor Williamson played at an outdoor rink at Walnut Ridge Park near her house in Edina. Playing there until the lights went out is something she points to and credits for all the skill and creativity in her game. And one of her teammates Friday, Warroad’s Gigi Marvin, certainly is no stranger to playing in extreme-weather conditions.

“I’m used to it,” Marvin said. “I’ve done that hundreds of times up north. And actually we have way more wind up there. So it was nice not having a wind.”

Marvin and Williamson took care of the scoring for Team Minnesota as they defeated Team Minneapolis 4-3 during the exhibition game that consisted of three 15-minute, running-time periods. Sadie Lundquist gave Team Minneapolis a 2-0 lead in the first before Team Minnesota got on the board with two goals apiece from Marvin and Williamson.

Scheduled two-minute intermissions were extended a bit as crews hit the ice with shovels and snow blowers to try and clear the playing surface off as best as they could. The snow was so steady that it was tough to make out the downtown skyline view that serves as the backdrop for Hockey Day Minnesota.

“It’s definitely tough, but it’s the fun part about being a part of Hockey Day Minnesota and playing outside,” Williamson said. “So it was super fun.”

Despite the blizzard-like conditions that might have kept some hockey fans away, there were a few pockets of cheering sections for the women’s game. Williamson, a former Gophers player and current Wayzata girls’ high school hockey coach, held practice with her team earlier in the day before it was off to Parade Stadium.

“My assistant coach Blair (Parent) was on the other team,” Williamson said. “So they wanted to come and watch us play, which was awesome.”

They had plenty to cheer about with Williamson’s goals. On a night when clouds of snow shot up from the ice as the puck moved along, it was all about “just doing what you’ve got to do to get the puck to the net, for sure,” Williamson said.

The Bloomington Jefferson high school girls’ team also showed up to support two of their assistant coaches, Kelly Pannek and Kelsey Cline. They were on different teams, too, with Cline skating on the winning Team Minnesota. Some of the girls held up signs to show their support as well, with one reading: “We just hope both teams have fun.”

The teams were made up of a bunch of current Minnesota Whitecaps players, plus former Gophers women’s hockey players and plenty of Minnesota ties. Whitecaps assistant coach Laura Slominski coached Team Minneapolis. Former Park Center and Gophers standout Krissy Wendell was slated to coach the other team but was home was a sick child, so Gorg stepped in.

Marvin was bummed Wendall couldn’t be there but enjoyed her replacement, too.

“He’s hilarious,” Marvin said, of Gorg. “He had some good one-liners.”

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Coach Kevin Gorg delivers and inspirational speech to his Team Minnesota players. (MHM Photo / Jonny Watkins)

Any expert coaching advice? Nah, Gorg said he just tried to stay out of the way. He was behind the bench coaching a lot of players he’s known since they were in high school, like goaltender Julie Friend and Erica McKenzie. Coaching as part of Hockey Day Minnesota was “a bonus” for Gorg, a report and hockey analyst with Fox Sports North.

“All year long we look forward to Hockey Day,” Gorg said. “Nights like tonight are really special.”

According to @HockeyDayMN on Twitter, the women’s game included 26 native Minnesotans, 17 NCAA championships, 12 Isobel Cup winners, six Ms. Hockey winners and four Minnesota state high school championships.

For the Whitecaps (10-4-2) players, they will head back indoors this weekend, taking on the Connecticut Whale (1-13-2) for a pair of afternoon games Saturday and Sunday at their home TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul.

Marvin, who previously played in for the Boston Pride in the NWHL and is now part of the PWHPA, said the experience Friday was just a cool one all around, especially being able to reconnect with friends/teammates she hadn’t seen in a while.  

“Of course it makes all the sense in the world to not only have a men’s pro all-star game but have a women’s (all-star game),” Marvin said. “Because there’s that much talent here. There’s that much skill. 

Heather's love for watching hockey started when the Minnesota Wild came to town in 2000. Before that, she caught a few Minnesota Moose games as a youngster, and more recently she's kept up with the Austin Bruins and Fargo Force. She's a writer, freelance journalist and blogger who previously worked as a news reporter in Austin and Fergus Falls, Minn. She enjoys watching sports and closely follows the Wild, Minnesota Twins, IndyCar Series, tennis and prep sports. Heather keeps up her sports blog Thoughts from the Stands. You can follow her on Twitter @hlrule.

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