DULUTH (AP) -- A door swings open along the sideboards at Mars Lakeview Arena, and the Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team files onto the ice.
It's Tuesday afternoon, another opportunity for the nation's second-ranked team to put in the time and the effort worthy of the defending NCAA champions.
Practice begins and ends without any sign of star forward Jenny (Schmidgall) Potter. Coaches and teammates can only guess where the two-time Olympian, the heart of the team, could be.
Perhaps mulling the choices in the cereal aisle at the nearby Cub Foods. Or getting some homework done without one eye on the clock.
Maybe she's elbow deep in that load of dark clothes that can't wait another day to get thrown into the washing machine.
Or, in the best of cases, Jenny, 2-year-old daughter Madison and husband Rob are all together, making the most of an afternoon without a care.
Tuesdays without "Schmiggy" have become the norm at UMD as one of the unique talents in women's hockey goes about living her anything but routine life.
Skip a day of practice? It wasn't Potter's idea. Coach Shannon Miller simply says student, hockey player, wife and mother needs the time.
"She's got a lot to juggle," Miller said. "And I think she does a fantastic job."
Indeed, if the 24-year-old Potter is spreading herself too thin, finding proof might be as hard as trying to separate her from the puck. She enters tonight's game with the Gophers as the nation's leading scorer (71 points in 28 games). And at game's end, the quick hands she showed on the ice will be no match for the work she'll do to get her equipment off and Maddy into her arms.
All in a day and night's work.
"There's not much time to relax," Potter said. "It's been a challenge, but it's working out pretty good."
Her junior season at UMD began as an experiment, with the former Edina High School standout unsure whether school, hockey and family all could receive the necessary attention. Somehow it's all worked itself out.
The Potters' apartment in Duluth serves as their home base. Rob spends part of each week in the Twin Cities, where he works as a hockey coach and scout. Madison goes along, spending time with both sets of grandparents.
So far this season, the longest Potter has spent apart from her daughter is four days. She takes solace in that, but can't always fight off the guilt.
"You feel like a bad person for not being with her," she said. "But any parent needs time away. And I'm not gone long enough for her to be mad at me. Family comes first, but as long as I can play hockey, and be happy playing, I'll continue. I'm lucky to have a husband who is 100 percent supportive of that. He has put his life on hold for mine."
Miller is comfortable with the Potters coming as a package deal. She has no problem with Jenny and Rob huddling between periods at games. And when Miller enters the dressing room to make her postgame comments, so be it if Madison already is in there working the room.
"A lot of coaches would say hockey time is hockey time and see your family when the game is over," Miller said. "I don't think that's necessary. If it was the gold medal game in the Olympics, yeah, but it's not. Rob and Madison are part of our team."
Those in and around the UMD program know that Potter's commitment to the game, and to improving her own game, helps separate her from the crowd. She recently was named one of the 10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, presented to the player of the year.
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