St. Peter, Minn. – While many Gusties were at home over the holiday break, the Gustavus women’s hockey team traveled through Austria and Germany taking in the sights and playing three hockey games to set the tone the second half of the season. Senior defender Kelsey Kennedy (Eagan, Minn.) and senior forward Jenna Christensen (Albert Lea, Minn.) both agree that the experience offered a new perspective and a great opportunity to bond with teammates.
Over the course of the nine day trip, the Gusties played games in the Austrian cities of Salzburg, Linz, and Graz. Although hockey is hockey, Kennedy noted that the competition was not nearly as intense there as it is back in the United States. “We build our lives around it here whereas it’s not necessarily a staple there,” said Kennedy. “It was at times a scramble to organize the games because players were coming in from all over the country, but we got to take part in a few fun games. We played against girls as young as 14 and as old as 35, so it was quite the dynamic.”
Christensen also pointed out that the teams the Gusties played were not associated with any school, but were instead club teams. Regardless of their affiliation, Christensen praised the player’s commitment and love for the sport. During one contest, Gustavus’ opponent was short on players. The solution – have a few players wearing a three crowned sweater join the other team in order to balance out the sides, just as if the game was being played on a backyard rink in Minnesota. “I think that was the highlight of my trip, getting to play with skaters from another country,” Christensen said. “It was a blast to hear their stories and talk to them about their experience in hockey. Although it felt different at times, hockey crosses boarders.”
Between games, the women’s team took time to sightsee and learn about European culture and history. The team toured a concentration camp in Mauthausen, Austria, as well as taking in the view of the Bavarian Alps. “The trip becomes less about hockey and more about the experience when you get see such beautiful places and take in such rich history,” Kennedy stated. “You take a history class with others but you rarely have the opportunity to be immersed in it with someone else.”
Christensen agreed that although the team was tired because of the busy day-to-day schedule, it was hard to take a break because there was so much to see. “You can’t complain about having the opportunity to go overseas and share in a once in a lifetime experience with 22 of your best friends. At the same time you are enjoying these great places and you get to play the sport you love. We don’t have the opportunity to study abroad because hockey runs into both semesters, so to have the chance to do something like this is truly special.”
Over the women’s hockey team’s nine day trip, the Gusties saw the cities of Munich, Salzburg, Mauthausen, Vienna, and Graz.
Being in Vienna over New Year’s Eve meant that the team got to take part in one of the country’s largest celebrations of the year. “It was hard to beat New Years in Vienna,” Kennedy admitted, “New Year’s was completely different than anything we’ve ever done here.”
The women’s team returned home on the Thursday, Jan. 3. The Gusties are now prepared for their next match-up on Friday, January 11th against UW-Stevens Point at Don Roberts Ice Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.