John Harrington always enjoys going back to the rink in Lake Placid, New York, the site of the “Miracle on Ice,” which he was part of during the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Harrington, the Minnesota State women’s hockey coach, will be going back there on Sunday, but he won’t be reminiscing about the past so much as he’ll be looking toward the future.
Harrington and two of his current Mavericks players will be participating in the USA Hockey Women’s Festival, a nine-day camp that features most of the top players in the country, including members of the 2018 gold medal-winning Olympic team. The festival will also determine the United States’ U22 and U18 teams that will compete in best-of-three series against Canada Aug. 14-17 in Lake Placid.
“I’m excited,” said Harrington, who will be one of the camp’s on-ice coaches. “It’s a great opportunity to help develop players but also to learn some new things.”
Harrington is most excited about the opportunities two of his MSU players are getting. Goaltender Abbey Levy and defender Anna Wilgren are coming off outstanding rookie seasons at Minnesota State. Levy was a second-team All-WCHA selection, and both players made the conference’s all-rookie team.
“I want to work hard and do my best,” said Levy, a Congers, New York, native who played at Faribault’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s School before arriving at MSU. “It will mostly be a learning experience for me and a chance to go up against the best players in the world, players I grew up idolizing.”
In particular, Levy mentioned Olympians Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker and Alex Rigsby, saying they “also made their way through this process when they were younger … I’m pursuing what they pursued.”
Wilgren echoed her teammate, noting that one of her teammates during the festival will be a hero of hers, Olympic-team defender Lee Stecklein.
“She’s someone I’ve looked up to my whole life,” Wilgren said.
Wilgren will try not to be in awe, though.
“It will be amazing to be on the same team and the same ice and learn from them,” Wilgren said, “to see what they do and learn from that and be able to bring that back to Mankato and into my own life.”
Wilgren, a Hudson, Wisconsin, native, had four goals and 12 points during her first season with the Mavericks. She finished the season with 122 blocked shots, most in the WCHA and second-most in the country.
“Anna does what needs to be done,” Harrington said. “She can do things skillfully, she can do things physically and she can do things courageously. I’m excited to see her play out there there because she’s so competitive.”
Levy played all but one game for the Mavericks last season, going 9-18-7 with a school-record five shutouts a .924 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average. Her 914 saves during the regular season ranked third in the nation.
“In May she went to the USA Hockey goaltending clinic and learned some new things,” Harrington said. “I’m looking forward to seeing her out (in Lake Placid).”
Three Minnesota State recruits also will be participating in the camp: forwards Sydney Langseth of Eden Prairie, Jamie Nelson of Andover and Dani Burgen of Chisago Lakes. Langseth and Nelson are part of the Mavericks’ recruiting class for 2020, while Burgen won’t arrive at MSU until 2022.
NCAA rules prohibit Harrington from commenting on unsigned recruits, but having a strong representation at the festival is a sign that Minnesota State is trending in a positive direction.
“It’s a great credit to our staff. Jeff (Giesen) and Shari (Dickerman) are doing a great job,” Harrington said, recognizing his assistant coaches. “We’re getting national team-quality players, players that have the ability to go there. It will help us get better as we go.”
Harrington has been Minnesota State’s coach for four seasons. He agreed to a two-year contract extension with the school this offseason.
“I’m really excited about our team going forward,” he said.