Rachel Ramsey, who comes from a hockey family, had good hands and a good shot as a youngster. So naturally she grew up playing center.
Until her junior year at Minnetonka, that is, when her high school coaches decided to move her to defense. A switch that her father, Mike, a former NHL defenseman, was not too sure of.
He is now: "It was the right move."
Rachel Ramsey of the Gophers leads rookie defensemen in the WCHA in scoring this season. She has four goals and 18 assists for 22 points.
"The transition for her was pretty seamless," Gophers coach Brad Frost. "Early on, she was making a fair amount of high school kid mistakes, but as she got more comfortable with the pace of the [college] game ... she just started to develop into one of our top four defensemen."
The Gophers will need Ramsey and all their blue-liners to play well against North Dakota on Friday in the second semifinal of the Final Face-off in Duluth. The Sioux have the conference's top scorer in Jocelyne Lamoureux, and the season series is tied at 2-2.
Ramsey knows what to expect from North Dakota, a team she calls the most physical in women's hockey. "We know everyone is going to be out for blood, basically," Ramsey said. "It will be a battle out there. The main thing is to try to keep yourself composed."
Being calm is one of Ramsey's strengths, Frost said, adding that her vision on the ice and her reach are two others.
"If a girl gets an extra step on me," the 6-foot Ramsey said, "I can put my stick out there and poke the puck away. My reach is a big key to my defense."
Her dad had a nice reach, too. Mike Ramsey was 6-3. He played on the Gophers' NCAA championship team in 1979 and the U.S. gold medal "Miracle" team in the 1980 Olympics before an 18-year NHL career. More recently, he was a Wild assistant coach for 10 years until 2010.
"I missed a lot of my kids' games," he said. "But I haven't missed much the past two years."
Mike and Jill Ramsey have three children. Jack, the youngest, is a sophomore forward for the Skippers.
Her father became convinced Rachel had a hockey future when she led the under-12 Minnetonka girls' team to second place in a state tournament. Some of those same players celebrated a Class 2A state title a year ago when Rachel was a senior. The Skippers won the title again this year.
Girls' varsity coach Eric Johnson said Rachel Ramsey played a part as a youngster in the program's rise to prominence.
"When she went from boys' hockey to the girls' side on the U12 team, she made it cool," Johnson said. "She helped the girls' program grow to 170 players, U6 to U14. She was a great player who had the talent to play boys' hockey until peewees and bantams."
Her father helped Rachel's develop. He often brought her and her two younger siblings to the Xcel Energy Center on weekends and holidays to skate before and after Wild practices.
"I thank God for the natural ability he gave me and being born into the family I was," Rachel Ramsey said.
Mike, who coached her on that U12 team during an NHL lockout, warily watched her become a defensemen in her third season of varsity hockey. "I was reluctant to see her move," he said, "but when you go from high school to college, there are a lot of players with good shots and hands."
Rachel Ramsey said she knows her defensive skills still need to improve and plans to keep working hard.
"In high school she got by on talent," Mike Ramsey said. "Now she is learning the tricks of the trade to play defense. But she has settled in nicely."