When Brad Frost recruited Hannah Brandt to play hockey for him at the University of Minnesota, he knew the Gophers were getting a top talent.
As a high school player and with the U.S. Under-18 women’s team, Brandt stood out, especially as an offensive difference-maker.
“I think everybody knew that Hannah Brandt would be something pretty special,” the Minnesota head coach said.
But Brandt, now in her junior year, is continuing to improve every season and round out her game.
As a freshman in 2012-13, Brandt finished second in the nation in scoring behind her teammate (and 2014 U.S. Olympian) Amanda Kessel, with 82 points in 41 games. As a sophomore, she led the nation in assists with 42 and was No. 2 in the nation in scoring with 65 points in 41 games.
Now early in her junior season, Brandt is tied for the national lead in scoring with 18 points (including nine goals) in nine games as top-ranked Minnesota has jumped off to a 7-1-2 start against elite competition.
Brandt will also log minutes with Team USA this season. She is currently with the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Four Nations Cup in Kamloops, B.C. Brandt and her teammates take on Sweden Friday at 4 p.m. ET in the final preliminary round game.
The Brandt who’s skating for the Gophers now is a much-improved player than the Brandt of 2012-13, Frost said.
For one thing, she’s worked hard to improving her skating and her speed.
Brandt said she focused this past offseason on weight work to strengthen her legs, her skating and her fitness, and she feels quicker on the ice. She’s getting to the puck faster, and it’s allowing her to get better position.
“I think the biggest improvement is her skating,” Frost said. “She came in as maybe somebody who was very skilled offensively, had a great shot, great vision, but her skating prevented her a little bit from winning races and being first to pucks and those types of things.
“But she’s done a considerable amount of work to increase her skating, her speed … and it’s helped her to become even more dominant as the years have gone on.”
Though reluctant to talk about herself — she’d rather talk about the Gophers’ fast start — Brandt said she’s happy with the way she’s playing.
“I think me and my line mates have really clicked,” she said. “And it’s been a good start. We just want to keep it going.”
Frost said that Brandt’s hard work at Minnesota on her fitness and skating has been complemented by the learning experiences she’s had with U.S. national teams. While Brandt wasn’t selected for the U.S. team that played at the Winter Games last February in Sochi, Russia, she was on the U.S. squad that won a gold medal at the 2011 World U18 Championships, has played in camps with the senior national team and will play for the United States at the Four Nations Cup this week in Kamloops, B.C. The 23-member American team will include 12 players from the Olympic team.
Just over the past year, Frost said Brandt’s game has improved significantly.
“She’s more confident, quicker and really leading the team in every aspect: offensively, defensively, on the power play and penalty kill,” he said. “Her game has definitely taken another jump.”
She’s always been an elite offensive player, Frost said, because of her vision, her quick release and her passing ability. Now she has her hands in every aspect of the game.
“She’s our best penalty killer, she’s our best defensive centerman and our best offensive player,” he said. “It’s not that she’s just our best offensive threat. She’s a tremendous hockey player. She knows how to play on the other side of the puck as well.”
Frost points to a couple of recent games to illustrate the impact Brandt is having.
In one, a 5-0 victory over the University of North Dakota, she had two goals and three assists.
“So she was in on everything,” he said.
In a game at the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Gophers trailed 3-1 in the third period, then rallied for a 3-3 tie, with Brandt scoring the equalizer. After a scoreless overtime, Brandt scored in the shootout, but UMD took the shootout 2-1.
For Brandt, being a part of a team that’s off to such a hot start is much more exciting than talking about her own accomplishments.
“It’s been like a top start here,” she said after the first eight games. “We’ve had seven top 10 teams we’ve played against, so to come out of that with seven wins and a tie is just unbelievable.”
As much as Brandt has improved, however, Frost sees an even better player by the time she’s ready to graduate.
“She continues to grow in confidence and her ability to play with and without the puck,” he said. “The sky’s the limit for her. I think everybody out west here knows how good Hannah is. She’s not going to blind you with her speed or anything like that, but at the end of the night she’s going to have two goals and two assists and you’re going to wonder how that happened.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): Four Nations Cup