'Electric' Blake girls' hockey star skates with an edge

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 19, 2013 - 6:50 AM

Dani Cameranesi, her school's career scoring leader, plays hockey with speed, an intense love for the game and an ever-present smile.

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Dani Cameranesi has 198 goals and 163 assists, both program bests at Blake.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Tess Cameranesi used to take her son, Tony, and youngest daughter, Dani, skating on the frozen pond behind their Plymouth home to drain their hyperactivity.

Those skating sessions provided the foundation for two distinguished hockey careers. Tony starred at Wayzata and currently ranks second in scoring as a freshman at Minnesota Duluth. Dani, after playing with the boys as long as she could, attended Blake.

She started as an eighth-grader in 2009 when the Bears won the Class 1A championship. Now a senior, Cameranesi is the program's career scoring leader, with 198 goals and 163 assists, and has Blake back in the state tournament.

Her prowess fueled her selection as the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.

"Dani is the most electric and dominant player I have coached in my 15 years of coaching at levels from youth to college, boys, men, girls and women," first-year Bears coach Shawn Reid said. "Every game she has two or three opponents around her, and yet she is able to maneuver around them with her speed."

That superior skating technique started with mom's tutelage. Tess grew up with four older brothers who played hockey. One of her nephews is former Breck standout Robbie Dee.

"Whereas most kids skate like they are running, I just mainly taught the kids how to push off," said Tess, whose other secret was keeping their skates sharp. "That's where they started using their edges."

Working with high-level instructors brought Tony and Dani to the next level.

"We've been told about both our kids is that their speed comes from their takeoffs," Tess said. "Most skaters build up and then get fast. The first two steps my kids take is where they get their power from."

Dani grew up skating with the boys in the Wayzata youth ranks. Among her teammates was Benilde-St. Margaret's senior Grant Besse. Two concussions forced Cameranesi out of the boys' game prior to the Bantam level. Rules preventing eighth-graders from playing varsity hockey at Wayzata led to her choosing Blake.

She started in the 2009 Class 1A championship game and helped the Bears win the championship. Off the ice, Cameranesi developed a bond that she still has today with then-senior Sally Komarek.

"Sally is still one of my best friends; she's like a sister to me," Cameranesi said. "I have a couple sophomores now that I love. I try my best to lead by example."

Cameranesi, captain of the Under-18 national team that recently won a silver medal in world competition, sets the tone with her joy for hockey.

"I just love playing the game so much," she said. "Everything else is just a plus. When I step on the ice everything else just disappears."

Everything except her smile.

"I've been told that I smile when I skate," said Cameranesi, who has committed to playing for the Gophers. "Girls I've played against say when I'm coming at them I'm giving them a creepy smile. I tell them I'm not trying to. I think it's just me breathing out of my mouth."

The laughs are coming easier as Cameranesi and her teammates move on from an emotional loss. Last April long-time Blake coach Brano Stankovsky died from stroke complications at age 56. Cameranesi said going back to the state tournament is the Bears' way of honoring their fallen coach.

"It's pushed me a little harder on the rink and in school because I know he's looking down on us," Cameranesi said. "At the end of the season last year we all made a vow to try and carry on his legacy. Our saying this year was the last quote he wrote on our board: 'If you aren't willing to go all the way, why go at all?'"

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