Hannah Brandt is a star among stars on the Gopher women’s hockey team. This season’s squad featured three All-Americans, as well as the National Rookie of the Year, a strong foundation that helped the program win its fourth national championship in the past five seasons. No other Minnesota program – men’s or women’s – has ever won four national titles in five years.
Even on a high-profile team loaded with talent, Brandt stands out. Her position at or near the top of the record books, both at Minnesota and nationally, makes it impossible for her to blend in even as she’s dressed head-to-toe in gear that matches her teammates. She is one of just four, three-time All-Americans in Minnesota history and the only three-time First Team All-American in program history. She graduates as the program’s all-time leader in assists (170) and points (285). Her 285 points ties her for the second-most in NCAA Division I history.
Even when prompted, Brandt doesn’t get into what she’s accomplished, instead focusing on everything around her.
“It’s been an unbelievable time to be a member of the Gopher women’s hockey team. It’s been an honor to be a part of it,” said Brandt when asked about the legacy she is leaving at Minnesota. “Great coaching. Great teammates. Great fans. A great time.”
Brandt has seen success, personally and with her hometown team, that exceed the limits of her imagination and that can be difficult to capture in words. Her time at Minnesota has transformed her from a person who looked up to Golden Gopher stars on the ice to being that person for so many young hockey players around the state.
“When I was a little kid I always dreamed of being a Gopher, so it’s crazy that I was able to live out that dream,” she said. “We obviously looked up to the Gophers when we were young … [so] being a role model for those kids is something none of us take lightly.”
When it comes to women’s hockey, that role-modeling from standout players on the most accomplished team in the country continues to contribute to the growth of the sport.
More than 15 percent of all female collegiate hockey players on NCAA Division I rosters during the 2015-16 season hail from Minnesota – 139 in all (a number which includes Brandt, who hails from Vadnais Heights, a St. Paul suburb). That number is driven by the growing popularity of the women’s game in a state so fiercely dedicated to hockey that it has developed the moniker “The State of Hockey.” As of 2016, more than 12,000 girls played youth hockey in Minnesota. Those numbers aren’t lost on Brandt.
“It’s great to see women’s hockey taking off like it has, especially here in Minnesota,” she said. “But I think it’s getting to expand more throughout the country.”
She’s right about that, with national youth participation numbers skyrocketing from fewer than 10,000 in 1990 to nearly 70,000 today.
“[I’m] looking forward to see that [growth] continue,” she added. “And to seeing Minnesota hockey continuing to dominate.”
- Vadnais Heights, Minnesota
- Three-Time First Team All-American
- Three-Time National Champion
- Two-Time WCHA Player of the Year