It was the dead of winter in Minnesota, and in the wee hours of the morning, Madeline Wethington was huddled around her computer.

Some 5,800-plus miles and nine hours of time difference away, Audrey Wethington was skating with the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team at the 2019 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Japan and her older sister didn’t want to miss a minute.

Play after play, game after game, big sis would talk to the younger one like they were sitting together in the same room. Madeline Wethington knew her sister couldn’t hear her, but she still lived and died with each play.

“It was the middle of the night and I stayed up to watch all of them,” said the older Wethington, who is a freshman hockey player at the University of Minnesota. “I know she couldn’t hear me, but I’d be saying, ‘Go Audrey’ or, ‘Great pass’ during the games.”

This week’s sleep schedule should go a little smoother for the big sister as Audrey and the U18s are in Slovakia — which is seven hours ahead in time — for the 2020 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship.

“We always support each other,” said Audrey, by phone from Slovakia late last week.

Raised under a roof that is half hockey royalty in Minnesota, the sport is life for the Wethington sisters and their family.

Mom’s side has been ingrained in the sport for decades, while dad’s the best fan — and travel companion — a daughter could ask for.

“Dad never played hockey, but you can count on him being our biggest fan,” Madeline said of Patrick Wethington, who made the trip to Slovakia with Audrey.

“Obviously my dad plays just as important a role,” Audrey added.

2020 U18 Women’s Worlds
But the passion for the game comes from their mother, Kerry Wethington, and her side of the family, the Brodts.

Kerry Wethington was the first women’s coach at St. Cloud State after a successful playing career of her own, while the sisters’ aunts, Winny and Chelsey, have carved their own niches in the sport.

“We’ve been around hockey as far back as I can remember,” Madeline said.