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US Hockey Hall of Fame

Wendell-Pohl delighted by call to join U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

Minnesota native among most prolific scorers in women's hockey at college, international levels

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

Krissy Wendell-Pohl would kill you with a smile before she'd do it with her game.

The 38-year-old from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, is a "Southern belle-type," says Kelly Stephens-Tysland, who played on a line with Wendell-Pohl when they were teammates at the University of Minnesota from 2002-03 through 2004-05.

"She's like the Reese Witherspoon of 'Sweet Home Alabama.' She has the smile, she has the dimples, cute as a button," Stephens-Tysland said. "But here's the thing: She flashes this cute smile and then she goes around you. She had the toe drag to a T, and she had her breakaway move that even though every goalie knew what was coming, they still couldn't stop her. It was the softness, but then the fierce Wendell came out."

The third member of that line, Natalie Darwitz, was even more direct.

"There's not a truer goal-scorer that I've ever witnessed, male or female, who could literally put the puck on her stick and dominate the way she did," said Darwitz, who was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.

Darwitz will be joined there by Wendell-Pohl, part of the five-member class that will be inducted into the USHHOF during a celebration in Washington on Thursday. She is joined by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, former NHL players Brian Gionta and Tim Thomas, and youth coach Neal Henderson.

"You don't ever expect to get the call, so I'm surprised and excited joining a great group of people who have already been there," Wendell-Pohl said. "When you get recognized in an event like this, it does make you look back and reflect and think about how incredibly blessed I was to have the support, the opportunities and the family, friends and awesome teammates. Just to be able to play a game I loved as long as I did, to see the world, travel and meet some awesome people. It just makes you realize how incredibly blessed I was."

Wendell-Pohl was a dominant hockey player at every level during her career.

At Park Center Senior High School, she scored 219 goals in two seasons. As a senior, she had 119 goals, helped Park Center win the Minnesota state championship and was awarded the Ms. Hockey Award, as the state's best female player.

She also had a tremendous career at Minnesota, where she's fourth in school history with 237 points (106 goals, 131 assists) in three seasons, helping Minnesota win back-to-back NCAA championships in her final two seasons. She won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the top female college hockey player in 2005.

Wendell-Pohl was just as prolific at the international level. She scored 247 points (106 goals, 141 goals) in 147 games with the U.S. women's team, with whom she won silver at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and bronze at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

She played in six IIHF Women's World Championships. In 2005, she voted tournament MVP when the U.S. won gold for the first time. Wendell-Pohl earned one gold medal, six silvers and one bronze in major international competition.

She was a multisport athlete who often played on boys' teams in hockey and baseball during her youth career.

She was the fifth girl in history, and first to start as a catcher, when she played in the Little League World Series in 1994 with the Brooklyn Park American Little League. In 2004, she was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence in 2004, one of six women to be bestowed Little League Baseball's highest honor.

Wendell-Pohl said she never felt out of place playing on mixed teams.

"It's all I knew, because at that point I had played hockey, I had played baseball with the boys," she said. "Having an older brother, and all my friends seemed to be boys, and that's what I surrounded myself with. I didn't look at myself as the girl and I don't think they did, either.

"To my teammates, I was just Krissy to them. I was just another player on the team. I was lucky. I had some awesome, awesome teammates who made it a good experience, for sure."

But hockey was without a doubt her forte.

Wendell-Pohl is still co-holder of two NCAA records, with Meghan Agosta, for most shorthanded goals in a season (seven in 2004-05) and most shorthanded goals in her college career (16). Agosta scored seven shorthanded goals in 2007-08 with Mercyhurst College.

Wendell-Pohl laughs when the shorthanded records are brought up.

"Brad Frost might say I wasn't good at shorthanded goals," she said of Frost, Minnesota's coach since 2007. "That the times I didn't pick those passes off, the goals ended up in the back of our net. So I probably wasn't on his first team for penalty kills, which is funny. I was not his favorite penalty killer. I probably played a little too offensive for the penalty kill for most coaches' liking."

Frost, an assistant with Minnesota during Wendell-Pohl's career there, said, "She undersells herself on the defensive side of the puck, but also on being a huge threat to score, even when we were shorthanded. She's known for her offensive prowess, certainly, but I think she was better defensively than even she would admit."

At Minnesota, Wendell-Pohl was one third of a dynamic line with Stephens-Tysland and Darwitz. The three played together for two seasons. Stephens-Tysland brought the physical, grinding presence to the line while the other two provided the bulk of the offense.

Darwitz said she and Wendell-Pohl were like salt and pepper, apples and oranges.

"We're two very different players, but throw the right mix of us together and we're a force to be reckoned with," said Darwitz, who had 246 points (102 goals, 144 assists) in 99 games at Minnesota. "I think I brought the hockey IQ, the playmaking abilities, and she brought the offensive prowess, the natural goal scoring. We were a one-two punch. In any game, if you try to key on Krissy, I'm going to hurt you, and if you try to key on me, Krissy's going to hurt you. We just had that 'twintuition.' We knew where each other was at all times, and we could find each other. It was really hard to contain."

Forward Amanda Kessel, who won silver with the U.S. women's team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and gold in PyeongChang in 2018, considers Wendell-Pohl an idol.

"Every time she was out there, she was making something fun happen; she was just so creative and so talented," said Kessel, who also went to Minnesota, scoring 248 points (108 goals, 140 assists) in 127 games from 2010-11 to 2015-16. "I only met her a few times when I was little, and she's just that type of person you want to be around. I was always jealous of everybody in the [U.S.] program who got to play with her, because she left right before I started getting involved."

Wendell-Pohl is enrollment manager at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, Minnesota. She and her husband John Pohl, a former NHL player and now the activities director at Hill-Murray, are parents to three daughters -- 11-year-old Emily, 9-year-old Anna and 7-year-old Lucy. All three play hockey.

Wendell-Pohl appreciates everything that hockey has brought her. Seeing her daughters embrace the sport is even better.

"They're competitive into soccer and lacrosse as well, but hockey seems to take up a lot of their time," she said. "They enjoy it. And I enjoy, almost more than playing, being able to watch them; the smile the sport brings to their faces, the friendships their making and the memories they know they'll have for a lifetime. It's pretty fun."

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