Day: January 3, 2018

Former Gustavus Adolphus women’s hockey player going to Olympics with South Korea

MSU W hockey V Korean National MAIN

By Shane Frederick – Mankato Free Press

Marissa Brandt was back on the ice in southern Minnesota on Tuesday night.

The name on the back of her jersey, though, might have been unfamiliar to anyone who watched her play hockey for four years at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Yoon Jung Park was Brandt’s given name when she was born in 1992 in Seoul, South Korea. When she was 4 months old, Greg and Robin Brandt adopted her, bringing her to Minnesota.

She’s using that original name again, though, as an Olympian representing her birth country during the Winter Games, which will take place next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“I (thought) I would go back to Korea with my family,” Brandt said on Tuesday morning following a practice in Mankato’s Verizon Center.. “But I never thought it would be in this circumstance, that I’m going there to play hockey.”

Brandt and the South Korean women’s national team played Minnesota State on Tuesday night as part of a series of exhibition games in preparation for the Olympics.

“It’s just been crazy,” Brandt said. “I can’t even believe that this is happening. I’m going to the Olympics and with this team and representing Korea. It’s really, really crazy. It’s surreal.”

Brandt grew up in Vadnais Heights and went to high school at Hill-Murray before attending Gustavus.

She played 111 games for the Gusties between 2011 and 2015, helping the team to two NCAA Division III Frozen Fours.

In the spring of her senior year she thought her competitive hockey days were behind her and was studying for final exams when she got a call “out of the blue.”

“They asked if I wanted to go to Korea for a tryout,” Brandt said. “And immediately I found myself saying yes but without even thinking.”

She had never been back to South Korea since her adoption, didn’t know anybody there and didn’t speak the language. After agreeing to the tryout, she returned there alone in 2015, taking a 15-hour flight.

“I didn’t even know who was picking me up from the airport,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was really getting myself into. … It was kind of terrifying.”

By December of 2016. Brandt gained her South Korean citizenship and is now considered a dual-citizen of that country and the United States. She’s been back and forth between the two countries several times over the last couple of years.

Brandt is the only adoptee on the team, however, there are five other “imports,” natives of the United States or Canada born to Korean parents. She admits she still doesn’t know the language very well, however, at 25, she is one of the older players on the roster. She’s also an assistant captain.

“This team, it’s unlike any other team I’ve been part of, especially with the age difference,” she said. “I have 16-year olds to 32-year-olds. … But, really, everybody gets along great and the dynamic on the team is awesome.”

Besides playing Minnesota State, the South Koreans will play Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin-River Falls and Shattuck-St. Mary’s before going to Pyeongchang.

“It’s been really busy,” Brandt said. “We’ve been to a couple tournaments, different training camps. We were in France, Hungary, now we’re in Minnesota for a camp.

“It’s been good for us to play other women’s teams because there aren’t many women’s teams in Korea to play. It’s good for us to get that kind of experience. … We’re getting our fair share of games, that’s for sure.”

Last April, she helped the team win the International Ice Hockey Federation Division II World Championship.

“I’m hoping this training camp and the games leading up to the Olympics will really help us to prepare for the Olympics,” Brandt said. “We want to learn everything from each game and get better. I’m sure it’s going to be here before we know it.”

Brandt won’t be going to South Korea alone this time, though.

On Sunday, her sister Hannah was named to the United States Olympic team. Hannah Brandt, 11 months her sister’s junior, was a three-time All-American at the University of Minnesota, where she became that program’s all-time leading scorer between 2012 and 2016.

The Brandts’ parents became pregnant with Hannah while preparing for Marissa’s arrival from Seoul.

The sisters have always been close, playing youth and high school hockey together.

“She tried out (for the 2014 Olympics) but was one of the last to get cut,” Marissa Brandt said. “It’s kind of crazy. We talked like, maybe this was supposed to happen, her getting cut back then and us going to the Olympics for the first time together. We’re really excited.”

USA Stops Russia to Advance at World Juniors

By Steve Ellis –

The United States of America will compete for another medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships after beating Russia 4-2 to advance to the semifinals.

The Americans knew scoring first, especially with their D core, would put them on the right track. That’s exactly what they did at 2:18 when Brady Tkachuk set up Kieffer Bellows on the power play, with Bellows one-timing it past Vladislav Sukhachyov to make it 1-0 early.

A few minutes later, however, Russia tied it up shorthanded. Marsel Sholokhov would make it 1-1 after he cut to the backhand and fired a weak-angle shot under Joseph Woll’s blocker, giving Russia a bit of pep in their step.

At 14:34, the Americans struck again. This time, Kailer Yamamoto gave USA the 2-1 lead after he jumped over Sukhachyov’s pad, got shoved by Sholokhov and still found a way to slide the puck in the net, an impressive goal.

Neither team could find the back of the net in the second, a rather dull period. Buit at 43:39, everything changed. Andrei Altybarmakyan would score a highlight-reel goal when he went from his own zone before fighting off Adam Fox in front of the US net. He’d wait long enough to get Woll to bite before sending one into the empty cage, tying the game up and electrifying the Russian faithful at KeyBank.

With just over seven minutes to go, and the action heating up, the Americans took back their lead and never looked back. Once again, Bellows would find the back of the net, after he unloaded a blast of a shot after chasing down a chip-in by Dylan Samberg, giving the Americans a lead they’d never relinquish. Joey Anderson would score one more to pour salt in the wound, finishing off USA’s 4-2 victory.

The United States will take on Sweden in a major heavyweight battle, a 4:00 PM start at KeyBank on Thursday. Russia will leave the tournament without a point in an event the team seemed inconsistent in from the start. It was also the fourth time in five years that the Russians were eliminated by the host country, a tough stat to swallow

Swedes hold off Slovaks

By Lucas Aykroyd –

The Swedes will take on the winner of the USA-Russia quarter-final on Thursday. The result guarantees they will play for a medal for the 12th straight year.

“I think we still need another level or two coming up in the next games,” said Alexander Nylander. “We’ve just got to step it up and play playoff hockey.”

Fabian Zetterlund also scored for Sweden, and Tim Soderlund had two assists. Captain Martin Bodak scored both goals for Slovakia.

Sweden last medaled on home ice in Malmo in 2014 (silver) when Tomas Monten was an assistant coach. Now the 40-year-old is hoping to win gold in his second stint as head coach. The Swedes have only won gold twice before (1981, 2012).

In a showdown between two of the tournament’s top-performing goalies, Filip Gustavsson prevailed over Slovakia’s Roman Durny. Sweden outshot Slovakia 39-22.

Of Durny, Bodak said: “He was all the time outstanding in this tournament. He’s a really good guy in the locker room and on the ice.”

It was Sweden’s fourth quarter-final victory over Slovakia in the last five years, but it was a much tighter result than usual. The Juniorkronorna won 6-0 in 2014, 6-0 in 2016, and 8-3 in 2017.

The Slovaks’ last quarter-final victory was 3-0 over the Czech Republic in 2015, when they marched to an unexpected bronze medal in Montreal. Despite seeing their 2018 medal hopes go up in smoke, they can be proud of what they accomplished in Buffalo, including a 3-2 upset over the United States.

“We tried to play our best, and I think we played our best,” said Bodak. “A little luck was missing for us.”

You couldn’t fault Slovakia’s effort in this do-or-die affair, but Sweden had the skill to execute a little better. After getting injured against Switzerland and missing the final group game against Russia, forward Jens Boqvist returned to the Swedish lineup for this crucial victory.

Both teams rang shots off the goal post in the early going, and the Slovaks showed defensive tenacity to keep their opponents on the outside, blocking plenty of chances despite being outshot 13-4 in the first period.

However, in the middle frame, Sweden picked up the pace, getting offensive contributions from throughout its lineup.

Just nine seconds in, Lundestrom barged over the blue line into the slot and wristed home his first goal of the tournament.

Zetterlund made it 2-0 Sweden at 6:55, splitting the Slovak defence and tucking a backhand between Durny’s legs to complete a dazzling solo rush.

“I skated the puck into the offensive zone, took the backhand and went five-hole,” said Zetterlund.

As the period wore on, the Swedes also took it to Slovakia physically. Defenceman Timothy Liljegren crunched Viliam Cacho next to the Slovak bench, and Boqvist knocked Bodak down with an open-ice hit.

Top Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin was penalized for delay of game for flipping the puck over the glass in his end, and at 17:41, Bodak got some revenge. The Slovak captain stepped in off the right point and beat a screened Gustavsson on the short side to make it 2-1. The underdogs were still in it.

“I was trying to pass first far side, but I couldn’t because there was a player from Sweden,” said Bodak. “Then I saw our two players in front of the net and one Swedish guy. I tried to put it in the net and it went in, so I was really happy.”

To kick off the third period, Slovakia had a glorious opportunity with a two-man advantage for 1:44. Marian Studenic put one off the post from the slot, but the Slovaks failed to bulge the twine.

“We tried to pass and shoot as much as possible there,” Bodak said. “I got a shot and I broke my stick, so that was also unlucky. It was good play from us, but we just didn’t score a goal.”

“It was really big,” said Nylander. “Great job by our penalty-killers to not let them score. We just kept going from there.”

Lundestrom gave Sweden some breathing room with his second goal at 10:17. Soderlund found him all alone to Durny’s left, and the Lulea forward just had to slide the puck into the gaping net.

But Slovakia wasn’t done. Just 1:41 later, Bodak charged to the net to finish off a great line rush, putting the puck over Gustavsson’s glove to make it 3-2.

Durny foiled Lundestrom’s hat trick attempt from close range with under four minutes remaining. The Slovaks kept on coming hard, but the Swedes pressed right back and Slovakia couldn’t get its goalie out for the extra attacker. It was a gallant but doomed effort.

“In the game against Canada, we didn’t play well,” Bodak reflected. “We were a little bit scared or something. But otherwise, our game was pretty good. I’m happy and proud of my team. I think we should get to play in the semi-finals, but it’s hockey, you know?”

Slovakia’s three best players of the tournament were honored afterwards: Roman Durny, Martin Bodak, and Samuel Bucek.

Canada Squishes Switzerland for Quarterfinal Victory

By Steve Ellis –

Canada has advanced to the semifinals at the World Juniors following a convincing 8-2 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

It only took 48 seconds for Canada to score on their first shot. Anaheim Ducks prospect Maxime Comtois waited for Brett Howden to get into a proper position to take a pass. Howden was able to unleash a one-timer past Philip Wuthrich, putting Canada up 1-0 early.

Before the period was half over, Canada found themselves leading 2-0. Cale Makar, Canada’s only blueliner with a goal in the tournament despite being their seventh defenceman, stepped up in a big way with his third goal of the tournament, beating Wuthrich high glove to double up Canada’s advantage.

Wuthrich made a couple of big saves early, but Canada was able to take the 3-0 lead with 7:54 to play in the first. Drake Batherson would get the rebound on the play, putting Canada up by three heading into the first break.

The Swiss would get one in the second period, giving them a bit of hope. Early in the period, Dario Rohrbach tipped a shot from the point, with the puck hitting Dante Fabbro’s skate before it landed in the net.

But that wouldn’t spark anything out of the Swiss, who trailed 6-1 after 40 minutes of play. Batherson would score his second and his stick would be in Jordan Kyrou’s possession for his goal, only to have Conor Timmins finish off the explosive second period for Canada.

Halfway through the period, the Swiss scored shorthanded. Axel Simic broke free from a scramble at the blueline and ripped a shot past Carter Hart blocker side, making it 6-2. Comtois and Dillion Dube would score before the game was over, however, giving Canada the 8-2 victory in the second quarterfinal game of the tournament.

Canada will meet up with the Czech Republic at 8:00PM on Thursday, taking on a team that hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals since 2005.

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