Following last season, Erin Holznagel watched her best friend, goaltender Mandy Hanson, earn a Division I women's hockey scholarship from Union College in New York.
In her own effort to play at that level, Holznagel went to work on her game. Her work ethic was rewarded with an invitation to the U.S. Hockey developmental camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. She also participated in camps in Cloquet and Hibbing and played in the International Cup tournament in the Twin Cities.
It was Holznagel's play at Lake Placid that attracted the attention of three-time defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth, with which she signed a national letter of intent Thursday.
"For my best friend to have her dream fulfilled it was so cool," Holznagel said. "And now it's happened to both of us."
Holznagel, a defender, has already been a five-year regular for the Warriors. She has compiled career totals of 60 goals and 100 points.
"If anyone would have seen her as a seventh-grader I doubt even the most astute hockey observer would have said five or six years from now this girl would be a Division I player for the defending national champs," Warriors coach Jim Ernster said. "That's a credit to Erin's work ethic."
"You see kids who show potential at a young age but by the time they're seniors they haven't fulfilled that potential. ... What was a deficit for her before she worked on and they were no longer deficits."
Holznagel will receive a partial scholarship from UMD, which plans to play her at forward, where she played her first four varsity seasons. She also said UMD initially doesn't plan to redshirt her.
"At the college level defense is kind of the backbone of the team," said Holznagel, who plans to major in a sports medicine-related field and minor in coaching. "Right now I'm not ready for that position in college. Right now I prefer defense but I feel like more of a natural forward."
Holznagel said about a dozen Division I and II schools recruited her but UMD was the only school she visited and it seemed like the most appropriate fit.
She thanked Warriors head coaches Chuck Whalen and Jim Ernster and assistants Stephanie Sustercich and Tom Woog for helping make this possible.
"All of them have been with me since seventh grade," said Holznagel, a 3.4 student in the post-secondary option program. "They really helped me understand the game more. They wanted me to be a good player in seventh and eighth grade. They encouraged me in practice. They always pushed me and it definitely helped."
Ernster said the scholarships earned by Hanson and Holznagel proves no matter where a girl plays hockey they have a chance to play at the next level.
"Obviously, it's great for our program," he said. "I hope it shows people in the community that Erin is not only a great hockey player but a nice young lady.
"Unfortunately, girl hockey players fight the male hockey stereotype that it's a brutal game. Hopefully we can use this to try and get more kids in our youth programs so moms are not afraid their girls will come out of our program with dentures, braces and stitches. That's just not reality."
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