ROSEVILLE (AP) -- Aladdin Street in Roseville is only one block long. Its seven houses face baseball and soccer fields to the east, while Central Park serves as the border to the south. If kids needed any prodding after walking out their front doors, the setting all but whispers, "Let's get a game going."
The Brodt and Curtin kids never needed any prodding.
Gophers senior defenders Winny Brodt and Ronda Curtin, a few years removed from the pickup games of their youth, will forever be linked to the countless hours of friendly competition that united their families and propelled each of them to elite status in Minnesota women's hockey.
As they face the final days of their Gophers hockey careers, Brodt and Curtin agree there could be no better way to go out than as champions. The third-ranked Gophers hope to take a step closer to that goal Friday when they face Wisconsin in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five.
Brodt, 25, and Curtin, 22, can now savor the twists and turns of Brodt's career that will allow them to graduate side by side. They have shared enough in their lives to think of each other as sisters. Sisters who grew up next-door to each other on Aladdin Street.
Hockey sticks still line the inside of a garage wall at the Brodt house. Righthanded, lefthanded, long and short, there's a stick for anyone and everyone.
They don't get used much these days, not with all but 12-year-old Tony Brodt off to college and beyond. But the sticks aren't going anywhere; along with the tattered tape on their blades, they are wrapped in memories.
With five Curtin kids and five Brodt kids, it was the odd day when some mix of the families wasn't gathered for a game. While every sport had its day, hockey quickly became the unanimous favorite.
The pond in Central Park served as the winter gathering place. For the remainder of the year, street hockey games in the Curtins' driveway were the center of activity.
"They were battles," Brodt said, recalling the days of bruised shins and determined faces. "No one ever wanted to lose."
Brodt and sister Chelsey (a Gophers freshman), and Curtin and younger sister Renee more than held their own with the boys. Daylong action eventually spilled into the night when Ron Curtin delighted the kids by setting up a spotlight to shine on the driveway.
The parents never had to wonder where the kids were, and the kids never wanted to be anywhere else.
"It was special," Brodt said, "because of how close we all were."
Said Curtin with a smile, "I loved my childhood."
Curtin called home the other day and was not surprised when Tony Brodt answered the phone. Turns out no one else was there; Tony had come over to play with the dog.
"We know our neighbors, but not like we know the Curtins," said Brodt's mother, Marlene. "Someone said we should just add on and connect the two houses together."
"They were our inspiration," Ron Curtin said of the Brodts. "They got us going in hockey. We owe them a lot."
Jack Brodt gets the credit for getting the kids involved in the game he's always loved. He watched, along with wife Marlene and Ron and Lauretta Curtin, as the kids' appreciation for the game -- and their skill level -- grew from year to year.
The two oldest Brodt children, Vic and Kerry, already were involved in hockey when the countless trips to the rink convinced Winny that she wanted in on the action. Meanwhile, Luke Curtin, who often went along for the ride, caught the same bug.
Kurt, Ronda and Renee Curtin soon joined the others, with Chelsey Brodt not far behind. When they weren't skating, they were knocking the tennis ball around in front of the Curtins' garage.
Asked for her earliest hockey memory, Ronda mentioned the Mites team she played for when she was 4. The team, made up mostly of boys, was coached by Jack Brodt. Ronda's teammates included brothers Luke and Kurt, and Winny.
"I remember Jack always telling me to keep my feet moving," Curtin said. "And how good the team was. One of the big thrills was playing a game in the Met Center."
"That had to be the most intense Mites team ever," Brodt added. "The other teams weren't even close to us. We won games 15-0."
Curtin's and Brodt's careers flourished from that point on as they moved up through the youth ranks. More often than not they were the only girls on their teams. Their talents won over anyone who thought they didn't belong.
It was 10 years before they played on the same team again. In 1996 Brodt the senior and Curtin the freshman helped lead Roseville to the state championship. The team was undefeated in the school's first season of girls' hockey.
Brodt was named Ms. Hockey that year, the inaugural season for the award. Curtin earned the title three years later.
Brodt did not attend college in 1996-97 because of an academic mix-up, then played a season at New Hampshire before transferring to Minnesota. After two seasons with the Gophers, she played with the U.S. national team for a year, but didn't make the Olympic team and sat out last season, too. That long journey resulted in Brodt and Curtin being seniors together.
Both players have been major contributors this season. Brodt had 13 goals and 24 assists, and Curtin has nine goals and 25 assists. Coach Laura Halldorson relies on their leadership and experience, as well as their skills.
"They have different personalities, which is reflected in how they lead," Halldorson said. "Winny is more vocal, while Ronda leads by example. This is a different team from the one we had a year ago. Last year was a statement season for Ronda. She emerged as one of the best defensemen in the country, and she was our go-to player.
"This year, with the talent we added on offense, we rely on Winny and Ronda to be our top two defenders. Yet, when we're on the power play, they play the points because they're both so good with the puck. It's another example of how their paths cross on and off the ice."
Neither Brodt nor Curtin has spent much time thinking about their college careers coming to an end. Both are set to get their degrees in the spring -- Brodt in journalism, Curtin in psychology. They are unsure of what the future holds, except when it comes to hockey.
Both plan to play in the Senior A Women's League next year. On a team coached by Jack Brodt.
Their teammates will include Marlene and Kerry Brodt, and -- if she is unable to resume her college career because of a series of concussions -- Renee Curtin.
Chelsey Brodt has three more years as a Gopher before she can officially reunite with the group from Aladdin Street.
"The name of the street is kind of appropriate," Marlene Brodt said. "People have said that it is magical. We have been asked over the years if any of the houses were for sale. They were thinking maybe some of that magic would rub off."
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