For one final time Sunday, Sydney Baldwin and her Minnetonka teammates boarded a bus at Pagel Arena bound for hockey glory.
Baldwin, a senior defenseman who won three consecutive Class 2A state titles with the Skippers, captured her sport’s highest individual honor — the Ms. Hockey award. Presented by Let’s Play Hockey Magazine, the 19th annual award goes to the state’s top senior skater.
“It’s such an honor; I’m really grateful for this,” said Baldwin, the first Minnetonka player to be named Ms. Hockey and first defenseman to win since 2002.
Baldwin claimed her prize Sunday at the St. Paul RiverCentre, right next door to the Xcel Energy Center ice where she solidified her place as perhaps the ultimate winner in girls’ hockey.
Her career postseason record was a gaudy 19-1.
Though Minnetonka failed to reach the state tournament this season, Baldwin showed players the path to continued greatness.
“Her success did not happen overnight,” Skippers coach Eric Johnson said.
“She was the hardest-working player on our team. She lifted weights more than any player we ever had.
“She has planted a seed of work ethic in our younger players that we will see the fruits of for years and years to come.”
Baldwin was chosen from a group of five finalists featuring future Gophers teammates Kelly Pannek (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) and Nina Rodgers (Hopkins) plus Samantha Donovan (Irondale) and Nicole Schammel (Red Wing).
“There are so many people associated with this award that I was just grateful to be up for it,” Baldwin said.
Erin O’Neil from Hopkins was named Senior Goalie of the Year.
Both awards are based on votes from a panel of high school coaches and Division I and III college coaches from Minnesota and Wisconsin.
A powerful skater with a slapshot some opponents sidestep, Baldwin tallied a career-high 31 points on 12 goals and 19 assists this past season at Minnetonka.
Johnson said Baldwin, out of all the talented Minnetonka players that he has coached of late, stands apart.
“She made more of an individual impact on a team than any of our previous players because there wasn’t as much star power on this team,” Johnson said. “I think that validates how important she was to our past success.”