No NCAA women’s hockey program has turned more college players into Olympians, and while UMD came into the 2013-14 season already boasting 23 women’s hockey medal-contenders, that number rose to 26 before the Winter Games in Sochi officially started. Add in Justin Faulk, the former UMD men’s hockey player on Team USA, and two Bulldog curlers on Team Shuster, and one thing is certain: UMD is leaving its mark at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
UMD has a total of 12 current and former women’s hockey players suiting up for seven out of the eight competing countries (Japan is the only team skating without a Bulldog). Once again, UMD is cementing itself as the NCAA women’s hockey program with the most Olympic ties for a fifth-consecutive Winter Olympic Games. Head coach Shannon Miller and the Bulldogs have proven every four years that UMD can be counted on to provide the best players in the world to be the best international teams in the world.
Rookie defenseman Lara Stalder became the 26th Bulldog (and youngest at 19-years-old) to represent UMD in the Winter Olympics when Switzerland named its 2014 Olympic Team. Stalder also became the second Swiss Olympian, following in the footsteps of goaltender Patricia Sautter-Elsmore, who manned the pipes in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Current Bulldog defenseman Tea Villia was named to her first Finnish Olympic team in early December. Villia, a native of Hyvinkaa, Finland, joins a long list of UMD players who have been named to the highest honor in women’s hockey. She comes as the ninth Bulldog player to skate in the Winter Olympics for Team Finland.
“It’s going to be fun with all the players who have graduated from here [UMD],” said Villia. “It’s kind of like playing against your friends, too.”
After Villia was named in early December, Jocelyne Larocque became the 25th women’s hockey player to be named an Olympian, joining Haley Irwin and Caroline Ouellette on Canada’s 2014 Winter Olympic roster. Both forwards, Ouellette is a three-time gold medalist for Canada (2010, 2006, 2002), while Irwin won gold with Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Larocque helped lead the Bulldogs to their fifth NCAA title in March 2010.
When Sweden announced its Olympic roster for Sochi, it meant another three former Bulldogs on another Olympic roster. Only Maria Rooth has suited up in as many Olympic games as goaltender Kim (Hasson) Martin, who will represent Sweden for a fourth time. Martin won bronze with Sweden in 2002 and silver in 2006. Along with Martin, forward Pernilla Winberg will represent Sweden for a third time. Both Winberg and Martin won silver medals with Sweden in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. Also, making her third appearance for Sweden in an Olympics game is defenseman Jenni Asserholt, who joined Winberg and Martin in Vancouver in 2010 and Turin in 2006.
In fact, dating back to women’s hockey 1998 debut in the Winter Olympics, Sweden has never had fewer than two current or former Bulldogs on its Olympic squads and has had as many as four (in 2006).
Another former Bulldog, netminder Jennifer Harss, has again been named to Germany’s Olympic team for the second time in her hockey career. Harss was a member of the 2006 German Olympic Team that competed in Turin, Italy.
Rounding out the Bulldog Olympic roster is former Bulldog forwards Aleksandra Vafina and Iya Gavrilova representing the host country in Russia. It will be the second Winter Olympics for both players.
While she didn’t wear the Bulldogs jersey or play for UMD, Julie Chu spent the 2008 season as an assistant coach alongside head coach Shannon Miller after a stellar career at Harvard. This will be Chu’s fourth appearance at the Winter Games with Team USA.
TEAM USA MEN’S HOCKEY
When USA Hockey unveiled its 25-man roster for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, among those who made the cut was former UMD Bulldog and current Carolina Hurricane defenseman Justin Faulk.
At age 21, Faulk is Team USA’s youngest player. Hailing from South St. Paul, Minn., he was a freshman power-play wizard for the Bulldogs who helped win the 2011 NCAA National Championship. Faulk has competed for the U.S. in numerous international events over the past five years, most recently being the 2012 and 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships.
The moment he stepped onto Olympic ice, Faulk became the eighth former Bulldog ever to skate for the U.S. in Olympic competition. He’s also the first to skate for Team USA since Brett Hull competed in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Read Justin Faulk’s interview with The UMD Statesman about lacing up for Team USA.
TEAM USA MEN’S CURLING
The game might look simple, but there’s a lot more to the sport of curling than meets the eye.
The 2014 Winter Games will be 2007 alumnus John Shuster’s third time competing in the Olympics. A Chisholm native who grew up playing basketball in alumnus Bob McDonald’s Saturday morning youth program, Shuster is back competing as the U.S. curling team skip. After a marvelous run through the U.S. Trials, and storming from behind numerous times to earn one of two automatic berths at an Olympic qualifier in Germany, the Duluth Curling Club’s most famous member heads to Sochi with a chance to add to the bronze medal he won in Turin, Italy.
In 2010, he formed a new team after the Vancouver Winter Games recruiting Zach Jacobson, a North Dakota native; Jared Zezel of Hibbing from Bemidji State; and, alumnus John Landsteiner of Mapleton, Minn. After the 2012 U.S. Championships, Jacobson pulled out of the team to tend to his farm, so Shuster turned to 2010 Olympic teammate and former roommate, Jeff Isaacson.
Making his Olympic debut as the team “lead”, John Landsteiner graduated from UMD in 2013, works as a civil engineer at Lake Superior Consulting in Duluth, and says he’s taking plenty of unpaid time off from this new job. But his employers understand and everyone in the office is excited for the USA curling team.
Team USA is not a medal favorite this time around, according to most experts. But as Shuster’s team showed at the Olympic Trials in Fargo, N.D., during the clinching tournament in Germany and again at a showdown in Las Vegas, it could be in the running for the country’s second curling medal ever.
No matter the outcome, Shuster says he enjoys the journey as much as anything. He’s excited to show what the current foursome can accomplish in Sochi.
With thousands of athletes competing at the Olympic level, it’s hard to keep track of everyone. These are the UMD Bulldogs we know of competing currently in Sochi. If we missed someone, please let us know! Send their name, Olympic sporting event, and a news article announcing their Olympic appearance (if available) to firstname.lastname@example.org! We wouldn’t want to leave anyone out of the spotlight.