By Cecilia VanZyl
It’s no question that Minnesota takes hockey seriously. With over 180,000 people in attendance for the 2018 Minnesota state hockey tournaments (boys, girls and adapted floor hockey), it has been a record year for the state of hockey, especially at Centennial. All 3 Cougar hockey teams made appearances at state this February, along with 4 youth hockey teams representing Centennial (U16 Black, Bantam AA, U15 A, and U12 A). What exactly lead up to the success of these programs?
Morgan O’Hearn, a freshman at Centennial, is one of the captains of the U15 A state tournament team. When asked about the journey to her team’s fourth-place finish at state, her answer was simple. “It was a lot of hard work,” O’Hearn stated. “It was a lot of fun to make it there [to state]. It was kind of unexpected. We had to beat some good teams and it was a good end to the season.”
The Centennial Bantam AA team took 7th in state, but were crowned champions in the VFW state tournament. Freshman, Ike Ankrum, described his relationship with his teammates over the season, “We really bonded.” The team also participated in Hockey Day Minnesota in Saint Cloud this January. Freshman, Max Hamstad, stated, “It showed how much people in Centennial really love hockey”
Senior captain of Centennial High School girls hockey, Anneke Linser, lead her team to second place in the state tournament. She says, “finally breaking through to the tournament was amazing. A lot of us were in tears because we were so happy. Also, playing in front of our community was insane. All of the support we got was incredible and I wouldn't have traded a second of it.”
As young kids growing up in hockey, many can agree that youth hockey players look up to the high school team. Anneke Linser says, “I think the youth kids look up to us a lot. I know I looked up to the high school girls when I was younger because I wanted be like them. It's really cool to see those girls come to our games to support us, and I think that our girls did a great job of being positive role models for them.” Players still in youth hockey agree. Lauren Paar, a Freshman on the U15A team says, “I looked up to them.” Freshman, James Novatney, a Bantam AA player says, “Having a good high school team to watch… it's just a great time. Getting to see that kind of talent on the ice, I love it a lot.”
With the success of both our youth and high school programs, Centennial has a bright future in hockey. Centennial athletics director, Brian Hegseth, says, “I think it’s pretty cool that people see us as a power in Minnesota high school hockey.”
As Centennial hockey continues to grow and be successful, there’s no telling the benefits our school and community will experience.