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UMD women's hockey conditioning coach undergoes liver transplant

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The strength and conditioning coach and equipment manager for the women's hockey team at the University of Minnesota Duluth had a liver transplant at the Mayo Clinic on Saturday.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that Julianne “Montana” Vasichek, 32, was admitted to a Duluth hospital earlier in the week before being airlifted to Rochester on Thursday. Her condition was listed as critical.

Vasichek was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2002 and primary sclerosing cholangitis — an incurable disorder that affects the bile ducts in the liver — in 2007.

Vasichek's family is updating her condition on her CaringBridge site.

Vasichek, a native of Great Falls, Montana, won three national championships while playing for UMD from 2001-2005 and was a two-time All American. While skating for the Bulldogs, she wore No. 49. The UMD women's hockey team wore '49' stickers on their helmets in her honor in their weekend homestand against Bemidji State.

“They were very worried about Montana. There were a lot of tears and a lot of conversations going on,” said head coach Shannon Miller about her team, who defeated BSU on Saturday, 2-0.

The newspaper said that Miller fought back tears during her postgame news conference as she talked about Vasichek.

“She’s fighting for her life and they know that. It’s hard on them and it’s hard on me. “We’re still playing for her this whole weekend,” UMD senior goaltender Kayla Black added. “She’s in our prayers and we hope she recovers quickly."

Vasichek's condition apparently worsened abruptly this week.

Last weekend, UMD held an Organ Donation/PSC Awareness Night during a game against Ohio State. The team wore yellow jerseys with a patch on the right abdomen, over the liver. The goal of the event that Vasichek helped organize was to raise $2,500; it generated more than $3,600 was generated.

Prior to the event, the Northland's News Center broadcast a story about Vasichek's health concerns and determination.

"It's just about remembering that I am a person, and I can make a difference," Vasichek told the station.

The UMD women's hockey program has gotten much attention of late for activities not related to its performance on the ice. Longtime coach Shannon Miller was informed by the university that her contract would not be renewed, setting off a political firestorm. Miller, who has run a highly successful program for 16 years, has indicated that she may pursue a discrimination suit.

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