Megan Bozek developed a certain toughness at a young age.
Growing up with two older, hockey-playing brothers, she had to learn to stick up for herself during those heated knee hockey games in their Buffalo Grove, Ill., home.
Those early lessons helped to create a playing style that was molded over several seasons playing on all-boys’ travel teams, refined during a highly successful career at the University of Minnesota, and now on display as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“I think the physicality of having [brothers] at home and also playing boys’ hockey kind of shaped the way I played in girls’ hockey as well,” Bozek said.
It’s a style that has served her well. A two-time NCAA champion, a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award finalist and the highest-scoring defenseman in Golden Gophers history, Bozek is as decorated as any player named to the preliminary roster for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team.
And now, Bozek hopes to add another piece of hardware to her resume: an Olympic gold medal.
Only 22 years old, Bozek already has significant international experience with Team USA, playing in 29 games dating back to 2008, the year before she enrolled at Minnesota.
“That’s something your really can’t put into words,” Bozek said of her international experiences. “The first time I put on the USA jersey, it was at U-18’s and Julie Chu came into the locker room at this August festival in Lake Placid [N.Y.] and said, ‘You’ll remember this feeling for the rest of your life so enjoy it.’
“Everytime since then that I’ve put on the USA jersey, I think of me being much younger and having one of my role models growing up say that.”
The structure of college hockey, with more time spent practicing and less time playing games, proved to be instrumental in her development.
While her first two seasons in college hockey were certainly respectable, it was during her junior year that things really started to click with 42 points in 39 games on Bozek’s way to first team All-America honors while guiding the Golden Gophers to a national title.
“I think how I developed myself off the ice with my training, and what I was specifically working on was huge for me, and our team dynamic, we just became really close as a team,” Bozek said.
But she wasn’t done yet. Her final year on campus will long be considered one of the greatest seasons in college hockey as the Gophers went 41-0 on their way to winning a second straight national title.
Posting 57 points in 41 games, she was one of three nominees for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the top women’s college hockey player. The other nominees? Her Gopher teammates Amanda Kessel and Noora Raty.
“That was something really cool that I think will definitely stay with me for a long time,” sais Bozek, who set the Minnesota record for points by a defenseman with 20 goals and 37 assists. “No matter who won, it was going to be the same emotions. It was something special to share that with my teammates.”
While she said she was “honored,” to go down in Gopher history, Bozek has her sights set on a bigger prize at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
“We are part of something bigger than ourselves,” she said. “We have to work together, do whatever we can to put our team first, and play as a team to win that gold medal in Sochi.”
Jake is a second-year Peewee who has
been playing hockey for six years. He loves the game and takes inspiration from his beloved St. Louis Blues.
Despite being hearing impaired, Jake shows no sign of letting his condition slow him down on or off the ice. To help him on the ice, Jake wears a hearing aid so he can hear the coaches, teammates and refs.
Most of his teammates don’t even know that Jake is hearing impaired, but those who do make sure they communicate with Jake in a manner to help him feel like a valued member of the team.
This year Jake was determined to make the local AA team and worked hard during the spring and summer months to improve his game. All his hard work paid off when he made the Meramec Sharks AA Peewee team this season.
Jake’s family, friends and teammates are continuously amazed at how determined Jake is to achieve whatever goals he sets for himself, and how he refuses to let anything stand in his way.