Sydney Baldwin wore the same socks throughout her entire Minnetonka career, washing them sparingly and not at all this season.

“You can’t wash the magic out of them, you know?” said Baldwin, a defenseman and only the Skipper to span Minnetonka’s unprecedented run of three consecutive Class 2A championships. “My teammates know to stay away from my stall.”

The odor of superstition was the only off-putting thing about Baldwin. Coaches and teammates appreciated her passion, pride and patience during a transitional year in the Skippers’ program. Once part of an ensemble cast of standout players, Baldwin took a starring role this winter. She handled her duties as captain with aplomb and remained one of the state’s most dynamic players.

Though a section semifinals loss put the first blemish on her 19-1 career postseason record, Baldwin goes out a winner with her selection as Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.

She is only the fourth defenseman so honored in 20 years of the award, joining inaugural winner Jamie DeGriselles of Apple Valley (1995), Roseville’s Winny Brodt (1996) and South St. Paul’s Ashley Albrecht (2002).

“This year I’ve had to step up my offensive game,” Baldwin said. “And I think I had more girls looking up to me as an example. It was important to maintain everything that past girls had brought to Minnetonka.”

Asked to be more assertive in clutch situations, Baldwin responded with four game-winning goals. A powerful skater with a slapshot some opponents sidestep, she tallied a career-high 31 points on 12 goals and 19 assists.

Baldwin, who already has signed to play for the Gophers, scored the game-winning goal in overtime to beat Eden Prairie in the first-ever high school hockey game played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. Gophers assistant coach Joel Johnson said afterward, “Sydney Baldwin, welcome to the U of M.”

Playing an estimated 75 percent of each game allowed Baldwin to“control the game on every shift,” Minnetonka assistant coach Maureen Hardwick said.

The pressure of being a marked player forced her to mature.

“At some points in time there was frustration,” Baldwin said. “But that’s not really going to help anything so I tried not to focus on it.”

Her first playoff loss, in the Section 6 semifinals to rival Benilde-St. Margaret’s, provided an opportunity for reflection.

“I was so used to winning the last game of the season that I never really understood or appreciated the run we had,” Baldwin said.

“But,” she added, “I’d also like to play that 51 minutes over again.”