Congratulations, good luck and, as we like to say around here, Ski-U-Mah to the University of Minnesota women's hockey and basketball teams as they prepare to play in their respective NCAA tournaments.
The hockey team will take on the rival University of Wisconsin Badgers on Friday in the opening game of the NCAA Frozen Four at the U's Ridder Arena.
The hockey team could be called the University from Minnesota Gophers, since 17 of the 21 players on the roster graduated from state high schools. The team's success is further confirmation that Minnesota's deeply ingrained hockey culture is developing elite players. Taking advantage of the home-state talent, coach Brad Frost's teams won the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Championships, and they came close to making it three straight before losing in last year's title game.
Basketball, of course, is a more global game, yet seven of the 12 players on the U roster graduated from Minnesota high schools. And, fittingly, the team's sophomore sensation Amanda Zahui B., who won media honors as the Big Ten's player of the year, is from Sweden — a country many Minnesotans claim as an ancestral home. Zahui has electrified Gopher fans with her aggressive and excellent play, which has helped make up for the loss of homegrown star Rachel Banham, who suffered a season-ending injury.
Zahui and other stars have helped first-year coach Marlene Stollings rapidly revitalize the program. And Stallings' up-tempo style is likely to continue to draw talented players — and enthusiastic fans — in future seasons.
Both teams also give credence to the term "student-athlete." A record-tying 14 players were Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Academic Team honorees, and the basketball team's recent grade-point average was 3.44.
Fans, alumni, students and staff of the University of Minnesota — indeed, all Minnesotans — have reason to be proud of these young women and cheer them on as they represent the state during their tournaments.