By BRAD SALMEN
Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato senior girls hockey player Sophia Hillmann will be playing for Gustavus Adolphus next season.
Gustavus Adolphus (mascot: Gusties) is an NCAA Division III program that plays in the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).
The Gusties, who finished third in NCAA Division III tournament in 2017, were the MIAC champions this season with a 15-1-2 conference record. The team finished 22-4-2 overall, but lost their opening game of the NCAA tournament to UW-River Falls.
Hillmann first came on Gustavus head coach Mike Carroll’s radar when LDC players attended a summer hockey camp last summer.
Based on Hillmann’s performance, and with a strong recommendation from LDC head coaches Matt Hogg and Brett Damerow, Carroll invited Hillmann for an official campus visit last fall.
“[Sophia] impressed us with her speed, work ethic, coachability, compete level, and leadership skills,” said Carroll. “College hockey is a big step up for any player, but with her drive and personality, we think she should fit in well with the chemistry of our team.”
Hillmann said it was the summer camp at Gustavus that first piqued her interest and compelled her to take an official visit.
“I met with [Coach Carroll] and some of the players, and it was an awesome experience. It really felt like home, and I could envision my future there,” she said. “I visited a couple other schools, but just didn’t get the same feeling as I did at Gustavus. It is a great school that could offer me a wonderful education, and the opportunity to play on an awesome hockey team.”
Hogg said when coach Carroll asked about Hillmann, he assured him he was getting a student/athlete that would be a major asset for his program.
“There are not enough positive adjectives to describe and sum up what Sophia has meant to our program over the past three seasons. She is an unbelievable competitor, and arguably one of the fastest, best-skating players we have had in the time I have been a part of it,” Hogg said. “Her strengths lie in her speed and tenacity on the puck, which has attributed to her being one of the best high school penalty killers I have ever seen.”
Hillmann finished the 2019-20 season as the team’s leading points-getter, with eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points.
“Coach Carroll and his staff are not only getting a fine hockey player, but an even better student and person,” he said. “I know Sophia will do great things at Gustavus on and off the ice, and I expect her to continue to grow as a player, because she is the type of person who is always looking to improve herself and her teammates. We know she will represent our program well at the next level.”
Hillmann said she is planning to major in Nursing at Gustavus, with the hopes of continuing her education to become a nurse anesthetist.
“I am extremely excited and thankful for this opportunity to further my education and be able to play hockey at one of the best Division III hockey teams in the nation,” she said.