Gophers women's hockey team return home with National Championship trophy

3:27 PM, Mar 19, 2012   |    comments
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  • Nicole Anderson's initials were placed on the Gophers players' helmets

MINNEAPOLIS -- The bus was late and North St. Paul hockey mom Jean Anderson started to pace. She was waiting for her daughter Stephanie to return from Duluth. Stephanie was with her Gopher hockey teammates, passing around a piece of wood and glass better known as the women's national college championship trophy.

4-2 victory over rival Wisconsin gave the Gophers the title on Sunday.

It was loud when the team walked off the coach bus. Soon after, Jean embraced her daughter, a freshman who played pivotal minutes in the championship game.

"I think Nicole gave her wings and helped her just fly out there. We miss her, she's here with us," Jean said, talking about her oldest daughter Nicole.

Nicole Anderson passed away in mid-January after suffering a pulmonary embolism. She was just 23 years old.

"I think we rallied around that. We took the good out of the bad and we kind of rallied around Steph," senior forward Sarah Erickson said. Every member of the team wore Nicole's initials on their helmet.

Stephanie says she could feel her sister's presence before the game.

"Where are you? I knew she was there, but where are you sitting? But I felt her; she was right behind me on the blue line. It felt awesome," Stephanie, a forward from North St. Paul, explained.

It also felt "awesome" as the team mobbed goaltender Noora Raty after the final horn. Anderson was surrounded by the teammates that supported her through a very difficult time. It was a pile formed by a team that stuck together through thick and thin, and came out on top.

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