Hill-Murray senior forward Hannah Brandt (left, with teammate Tory Heller) was the only high school player invited to train with the women’s Olympic team in December.
MINNEAPOLIS - Hannah Brandt had a national team training camp practice the morning of New Year's Eve, and her Hill-Murray Pioneers had a holiday tournament game that afternoon.
This was a natural time for a break, coach Bill Schafhauser thought, to keep his star senior forward from burning out or wearing down.
Brandt wasn't having it.
"That didn't get very far," Schafhauser said.
Brandt won the argument, though her coach put her on defense for that game to preserve some energy. She scored three goals in a 5-0 win over Hibbing/Chisholm.
"I felt fine," she said. "I wasn't just going to sit and watch. I don't really like to do that."
That's the kind of "absolute true love" for the sport — as Schafhauser put it — that fueled a sensational career for Brandt that ended with 133 goals and 108 assists over five varsity seasons. She was announced Tuesday as the 2012 winner of the Minnesota Associated Press Player of the Year for high school girls hockey.
Brandt, who's bound for the University of Minnesota in the fall, had 59 goals, including 13 hat tricks, for the Pioneers this season. She was an eighth-grader in Schafhauser's first year as head coach.
"So she's made me look pretty good," he said, laughing.
Hill-Murray was beaten in the section final to Roseville, the Class 2A runner-up, after making the state tournament ahead of most area expectations last season.
This time, Brandt and the Pioneers didn't and couldn't sneak up on anybody.
"I think we just wanted to prove everyone wrong, that they couldn't mess with us," Brandt said.
After playing on a national team last summer — she has an eye on the 2014 Winter Olympics, though she acknowledged a spot on the U.S. roster "would be really hard" to get — Brandt came into her senior year with an even better feel for the strength and speed it takes to be an elite player. Her puck-moving and ice vision improved, and what resulted was a remarkable cap to one of the best careers in the short history of girls hockey as a sanctioned varsity sport in this state.
"She's a special kid, and she takes a lot of responsibility," Schafhauser said.
Brandt was joined on the AP's All-State team by forwards Kayla Gardner of Warroad and Hanna Brodt of Roseville; defenders Milica McMillen of Breck and Lee Stecklein of Roseville; and Edina goalie Maddie Dahl. Gardner is the only junior in the group.
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