Andover goaltender Maddie Rooney will join the Huskies boys’ team this winter, returning to her hockey roots.

Rooney, a senior committed to Minnesota-Duluth, said facing bigger, faster and stronger boys’ players will better prepare her for college success. She played boys’ hockey her entire career until joining the Andover girls’ team as a sophomore. A Star Tribune All-Metro third team selection last season, Rooney helped the Huskies make their first Class 2A state tournament appearance.

She is banking on her success to be transferable. Minnesota State High School League rules state student-athletes are allowed one season per year of a specific sport. Trying out for the girls’ hockey team would have made Rooney ineligible to play for the boys’ team.

Boys’ hockey tryouts begin Monday.

“We wouldn’t have agreed to this if there was any chance we would cut her,” Andover boys’ hockey coach Mark Manney said. “She is clearly one of our top two goalies. But the thing I can’t guarantee is playing time.”

Rooney spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her hopes and concerns for the season ahead.

 

Q: Why make the switch now?

A: I think it’s the ultimate challenge to play at the highest level possible. I think this will help develop me for college. I’m very grateful that coach Manney gave me this opportunity to try out with the guys.

 

Q: You helped the Andover girls to state for the first time last year. Were you worried about their reaction to your decision?

A: A little bit. It was a hard decision to make because I was an assistant captain. But they all took it pretty well. I’m going to miss playing with them but I wish them and coach [Melissa] Sailor the best.

 

Q: What kind of chances are you giving yourself to play a significant role on the boys’ team?

A: I’m going to give it my best shot and whatever happens, happens. If it doesn’t work out ... I really don’t know how to answer that right now.

 

Q: What sort of reaction are you getting from the boys’ hockey players?

A: I grew up playing with most of them, and so they’re all excited for me. They push me, and I like that.

 

Q: Did you play on boys’ teams in the offseason?

A: I did camps with the boys in the summer and fall. And I also do the FHIT program at [the Herb Brooks Training Center], and I skate with the boys over there, too.

 

Q: When did you make your final decision that this is the direction you wanted to go?

A: Right after the boys’ summer camp. I liked the challenge, and I just felt it was a better fit for me to get ready for college hockey.

 

Q: How are you doing as far as getting your timing back?

A: I’m still getting my timing back. I’m still looking to improve. I’ve been playing with boys in captains’ practice, and it’s been going well.

 

Q: When you left the boys’ game it was Bantams. Now it’s varsity. How much different is the experience?

A: There is a difference. It’s a lot faster and obviously the guys are a lot bigger and stronger.

 

Q: You’re bigger and stronger since then, too. How soon did you feel at home in that environment again?

A: It took a few weeks to get back into it. But eventually I started to feel in place and realized this is what I wanted to do.

 

Q: What aspects of your game are solid? What are you still developing?

A: I’m still working on the lateral movements, trying to get a lot faster. But I feel like I’m doing well with small-area plays and straight-on shots.

DAVID LA VAQUE