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U.S. Olympic champion Brandt confused for Granlund at Wild practice

2018 PyeongChang gold medalist skates with Minnesota to start Girls Hockey Weekend

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Hannah Brandt's arrival at Minnesota Wild practice at TRIA Rink on Friday caused a moment of confusion for Minnesota Wild players and coaches.

Wearing the same red jersey as the Wild's top-line forwards, it wasn't the blonde ponytail hanging out of her helmet. It was because of how similar the United States Olympic champion looked and played like Wild forward Mikael Granlund.

"I had to double take a couple times who was who," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "It was great [to have her out there]. Now that they have the (Minnesota) Whitecaps (National Women's Hockey League) here, I think it's good for everybody to have the two [professional hockey] teams rooting for each other, and it's great having her skate with us. It looked like she was having a good time."

Video: Hannah Brandt on practicing with the Wild

Brandt, a Vadnais Heights, Minnesota native, practiced with the Wild to start the third annual Girls Hockey Weekend, which runs Friday and Saturday. Olympians Natalie Darwtiz and Krissy Wendell-Pohl have participated in Wild practices in the past to start the celebratory weekend.

"She looked like a mini Granny [Granlund] out there," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's pretty cool. I've had this a few times; in Anaheim we had an Olympic athlete (Hilary Knight) and last year we had (Wendell-Pohl). It's just amazing how far the women's game has come. They're very capable players and I get amazed every time we watch them."

In addition to Brandt's practice appearance, the Wild will host off-ice training sessions and on-ice clinics for an estimated 180 girls at 8U, 10U and 12U levels at Xcel Energy Center.

Brandt, 24, was a member of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and currently is playing for the Whitecaps in their inaugural NWHL season. She leads the Whitecaps with six points (three goals, three assists) through eight games, which are played at TRIA Rink.

"Whitecaps have been incredible so far," Brandt said. "It's been sold out every game so we're just enjoying the ride so far and the team's been doing pretty well (6-2-0)."

Brandt, who grew up 15 minutes outside of St. Paul, has been a Wild fan since the team's inception in 2000. Her favorite player?

"Mikko Koivu," she said. "It's crazy he's on the team and I was out there practicing with him today."

Koivu, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury but practiced Friday, said it's easy to see why Brandt has been as successful as she has.

"I think she did well keeping the pace, skating and shooting the puck and all that," Koivu said. "It's just a little bit of practice time, but you can see that from a player she was pretty good.

"I saw her going and I said 'Granny.' I don't think Granny liked that too much though."

Brandt said she didn't mind the comparison with Granlund.

"Granny's an awesome player," she said. "So any comparison with him I'll take."

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