It was the dead of winter in Minnesota, and in the wee hours of the morning, Madeline Wethington was huddled around her computer.
Some 5,800-plus miles and nine hours of time difference away, Audrey Wethington was skating with the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team at the 2019 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship in Japan and her older sister didn’t want to miss a minute.
Play after play, game after game, big sis would talk to the younger one like they were sitting together in the same room. Madeline Wethington knew her sister couldn’t hear her, but she still lived and died with each play.
“It was the middle of the night and I stayed up to watch all of them,” said the older Wethington, who is a freshman hockey player at the University of Minnesota. “I know she couldn’t hear me, but I’d be saying, ‘Go Audrey’ or, ‘Great pass’ during the games.”
This week’s sleep schedule should go a little smoother for the big sister as Audrey and the U18s are in Slovakia — which is seven hours ahead in time — for the 2020 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship.
“We always support each other,” said Audrey, by phone from Slovakia late last week.
Raised under a roof that is half hockey royalty in Minnesota, the sport is life for the Wethington sisters and their family.
Mom’s side has been ingrained in the sport for decades, while dad’s the best fan — and travel companion — a daughter could ask for.
“Dad never played hockey, but you can count on him being our biggest fan,” Madeline said of Patrick Wethington, who made the trip to Slovakia with Audrey.
“Obviously my dad plays just as important a role,” Audrey added.
But the passion for the game comes from their mother, Kerry Wethington, and her side of the family, the Brodts.
Kerry Wethington was the first women’s coach at St. Cloud State after a successful playing career of her own, while the sisters’ aunts, Winny and Chelsey, have carved their own niches in the sport.
“We’ve been around hockey as far back as I can remember,” Madeline said.
The Wethingtons played through the youth ranks, winning a state high school championship together, and will join forces again next year at Minnesota.
“It’s been great having the opportunity to play with my best friend,” Madeline added.
One of their dreams is to some day skate together for America.
“That would be a dream come true,” Audrey said. “It’s a dream come true to make the U18 team and represent the United States.”
While Audrey is a forward on the U18 team, Madeline recently trained with the women’s national team in Hartford, Connecticut, before returning home for the holidays. The sisters have thrived off each other climbing the hockey ranks, but there is one question they refuse to answer — who’s the better player?
“We are both different players,” Audrey said. “We’ve always played different positions.
“Growing up [going against each other] that’s made us better,” she added. “I’ve learned a lot of stuff from her.”
Madeline has a standard answer for such a question.
“She’s my sister, she’s a really good player and we play different positions,” she said.
In fact, playing different positions allows the sisters to offer each other “tips” as either teammates or after watching each other play.
Madeline often takes the 20-minute drive home from college to watch her younger sisters’ games.And not only do the older sisters play, but younger sisters, Jaqueline and Adeline, are active in the sport, too.
“We try to be really good role models,” Madeline said.
The oldest sister has already struck gold with the U18 team, picking up three straight medals from 2016-18 at the Under-18 World Championship.
Audrey Wethington is searching for her first gold medal, having taken silver with the U.S. team in Japan. When the tournament begins Thursday, she will have no doubt have a fan back home coaching her along the way.
“I would do the same thing for her,” Audrey said. “I can’t wait to play with her again.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|Date||Opponent||Time (Local/ET)/Result||Venue/Location||Stream/U.S. Player of the Game||Game Stats|
|Thurs., Dec. 26||Finland
|W, 4-1||Ice Rink Vlado Dzurilla
|Fri., Dec. 27||Russia
|W, 1-0||Ice Rink Vlado Dzurilla
|Sun., Dec. 29||Canada
|L, 1-2||Ice Rink Vlado Dzurilla
|Wed., Jan. 1||Russia
|W, 3-0||Ice Rink Vlado Dzurilla
|Thu., Jan. 2||Canada
|W, 2-1 (OT)||Ice Rink Vlado Dzurilla