Another sister act helps lead Gophers women to Frozen Four

Minnesota Gophers junior Sarah Potomak has paired with her sister, freshman Amy, in the quest to lead the women's hockey program to its 8th NCAA title this weekend when they face Cornell at the Frozen Four in Connecticut.
Sarah Potomak (26) had a pair of goals as the Minnesota Gophers beat Princeton 5-2 last weekend to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. (John Autey / The Rink Live)
Sarah Potomak (26) had a pair of goals as the Minnesota Gophers beat Princeton 5-2 last weekend to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four. (John Autey / The Rink Live)

MINNEAPOLIS -- When one looks back at two decades of on-ice success for the Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey program, sister acts are nothing new.

Winny and Chelsea Brodt skated together in maroon and gold during the 2002-03 season. Before they transferred to North Dakota, twins Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux spent one season with the Gophers and helped them reach the 2009 Frozen Four.

So it seemed a natural fit early this season when Gophers coach Brad Frost paired sisters Amy and Sarah Potomak on the team’s top line with senior Kelly Pannek. With the Gophers set to face Cornell on Friday afternoon in the opening game of the 2019 Frozen Four, even the coach admits that the trio nicknamed “Pots and Pan” took some lumps on the way to their current success.

“We started with them together and they were OK. They weren’t as good as we wanted them to be, but we did know that eventually we would need to put them back together to make a run at it,” Frost said on Tuesday, March 19, before the team left for Hamden, Conn., where the season’s final three games will be played. “About a month ago we put them back together and they’ve been great ever since.”

Big game

In last weekend’s NCAA opener versus Princeton, that line accounted for the team’s first four goals in a 5-2 win, sending the Gophers back to the Frozen Four after and uncharacteristic absence a year ago. Sarah, a junior, and Amy, a freshman, came to Minnesota from just outside Vancouver, and are thriving while playing together for real for the first time.

“When we were really little, we were linemates, but this is really the first time we’ve really been together on the same team and have been able to develop together in practice,” Sarah said. “It’s been just amazing and our growth from the beginning of the year to now has improved a lot.”

Typical of siblings playing together, the pair seems to have an innate sense of where the other will be on the rink at any given time.

“They’re sisters and I always laugh because I think about having my sister on this team and how we’d react,” said Pannek, who is trying to close her college hockey career with a second NCAA title after winning a gold medal with Team USA at the Olympics a year ago. “They’re sisters through-and-through and they’re the biggest supporters of each other and also the people that hold each other accountable the most, so that’s a fun dynamic to see.”

Their line seems to click, especially late in the season when the Gophers dramatically overtook Wisconsin for the WCHA title on the final weekend, because each brings something unique and valuable to the trio.

“Sarah is a goal scorer. She has great vision and great quickness. Kelly distributes the puck maybe better than anybody in the country with the way she sees the ice, and Amy is kind of a combination of the two. She’s a goal scorer but she’s big and strong and can put energy on the puck,” Frost said. “So the three of them together compliment each other hockey-wise and of course having two sisters on the line with a smart hockey player makes sense too.”

If they can get past Cornell, the Gophers (31-5-1) will face either defending champion Clarkson (30-7-2) or get their sixth meeting of the season with arch-rival Wisconsin (33-4-2) to decide the national title.

Friday’s meeting with Cornell begins at 3 p.m. CT and will be televised by Big Ten Network.