Like losing a member of any close family, the Park girls’ hockey team was shocked and saddened to hear senior captain and Division-I bound defenseman Anna Keys would miss the entire season because of injury.
Keys suffered a severe knee injury in September during a Wolfpack soccer game. The three-sport athlete, who also plays golf, underwent surgery to replace her ACL and repair her MCL.
Fellow captain Emma Waller remembered hearing the news.
“The team didn’t know how to take it,” Waller said. “She is a strong player, and I know that a lot of us were pretty nervous, because, as a team, we are like a family and having Anna not on the ice with us was a struggle.”
Coach Steve Morse echoed Waller’s memory. He believes the team has responded well together. After all, there’s nothing they can do about it except go out and play the game.
“At first, some of the reactions around the room were ‘What are we going to do?’ ” Morse said. “And the answer is ‘We’re going to go play and we’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves.’ The girls have gone about it with a good attitude.”
Keys’ rehab is progressing well. She had surgery about eight weeks ago and just recently ditched her crutches. She’s trying to re-learn how to walk and strengthen her muscles once again.
“It was definitely a tough first couple weeks knowing that I couldn’t play my senior year,” said Keys, who hopes she can be ready to play golf for the Wolfpack in the spring. “But I started to realize that everything happens for a reason and it gives me a chance to see the game in a different way and learn even more.”
Keys is going to make the most of her situation. Outside of her physical therapy sessions, she has remained committed to the Park girls’ hockey team since the beginning of tryouts. She carries her helmet around and will be on the bench for games.
“She’s going to be everywhere except on the ice,” Morse said. “She’ll help us on the bench. It may even help her as a player to be on the bench.”
Fortunately, Minnesota State University has honored its commitment to Keys. She signed her national letter of intent Wednesday and should be ready to go as a freshman next season.
But what now for the Wolfpack hockey team?
Losing Keys changes the team dynamics. Park still has four returning defensemen, none of whom are seniors. They are young and experienced.
Meg Ackerman brings scoring touch from the back end. Alyssa Wickenhouser, Dani Perry and Sam Anderson return with important varsity experience. Megan Palmquist will join the defensive core this year. Waller and co-captain Paige Hill should provide key leadership.
Park’s strong goaltending of recent years should continue with Paige Press, who transferred from East Ridge. Due to Minnesota State High School League rules, she played junior varsity for the Wolfpack last year. She’ll start this season as a junior. Press played varsity for two years at East Ridge. Freshman Bryce Boreen is an up and coming talent in waiting.
Waller knows it will take everyone to pick up the slack, but believes that they can handle it together.
“If any of my teammates were gone, just like Anna, it would hurt,” Waller said. “It will take the whole team to step up and get used to.”
Keys is showing strong confidence in her squad as the season gets underway.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the team can play well, with or without me,” she said.