Centennial’s dynamic hockey linemates Gabbie Hughes and Anneke Linser finish each others plays so often, Blaine coach Steve Guider calls them “the most potent scoring duo in Minnesota.”
The longtime friends finish each other’s thoughts, too. In three varsity seasons, they’ve combined for 140 goals, 131 assists, two section final appearances — and zero state tournaments. When the juniors were asked about their shrinking number of chances to lead the Cougars to state, Hughes and Linser passed their responses back and forth like a puck.
“The urgency has changed,” Linser said.
“When we were eighth-graders and we really didn’t understand it, why all the seniors were so nervous for sections,” Hughes said, adding, “As the years go on … ”
“You realize you don’t have as much time.” Linser said.
“We want it way more,” Hughes said.
“We don’t want to think about next year,” Linser said. “We want to do it now.”
Time once seemed infinite. As U-10 players, Hughes and Linser started on their own lines. Then Linser shifted to right wing on Hughes’s line and something clicked. Later, when Hughes returned after stints on boys’ teams, she found her sixth sense with Linser on the ice didn’t fade.
Playing together as eighth-graders on varsity, Hughes and Linser combined for 26 goals. Yet they were separated at the start of freshman year.
“We said, ‘We’ve just got to show [coach Kristi King] that we’re really hard workers and that we belong on a line together,’” Hughes said.
A few practices and games later, they reunited. King said she has no plans to break them up to create for more scoring depth.
“They are better together,” King said.
The scouting report on Hughes, who has committed to North Dakota, starts with rink vision.
“She just knows where people are going to go and I’m like, ‘How did you see that? How did you get the puck there?’ ” Linser said.
Linser, committed to Minnesota Duluth, also boasts impressive skills.
“She’s fast and she does not stop working hard, ever,” Hughes said. “When I have the puck, I could throw it somewhere and she’d be there. And her shot is unreal.”
Off the ice, the young ladies ride together to school. Summer sleepovers sometimes last for days, filled with watching movies and laughter.
Sophomore linemate Maija Almich joined the fun more often last summer, bonding that should pay winter dividends. Almich moved up to the Hughes-Linser line halfway through last season, an intimidating promotion.
“They play fast-paced and know where the other one is going to be,” Almich said. “But they supported me and gave me confidence.”
Offseason workouts with the Skate to Excellence program should make for a terrific trio. But Centennial’s success falls on Hughes and Linser.
“With us being a dynamic duo or whatever, all that pressure ... ” Hughes said.
“We use it to motivate us,” Linser said.