Women’s hockey preparation: Watkins of Proctor-Hermantown named player of the year in all zones
So when Watkins got a job offer from St. Luke’s in Duluth, with the promise that he would be able to see his kids compete in sports and other activities a lot more, he jumped on it.
“When we came here, we got to see it every night,” said Alyssa Watkins.
The Watkins family, along with her mother Haley, moved from Windsor, Colorado, to Hermantown before Alyssa’s freshman year, and the rest, as they say, is history.
That story continued to be written this winter when Alyssa Watkins led the Proctor-Hermantown women’s hockey team to their first state title, with Alyssa closing out a magical state tournament and a magical season with a double blast. overtime which took the Mirage to a 3.-2 victory over Gentry Academy for the Class A title.
Watkins, the News Tribune Player of the Year, finished the tournament with seven goals, but none, of course, is more important than the last.
“People always ask me, ‘What did you think when it happened?’ and I’m still speechless and can’t tell them, ”Watkins said. “All I remember is looking up and seeing the puck go right over the goalie’s head, and then right after I don’t remember a thing. I just remember being the happiest I’ve ever been.
“I couldn’t have dreamed of a better end to the season. Especially with the year we have had, being able to finish it like that was more than anything I could have asked for.
Alyssa Watkins (22) of Proctor-Hermantown talks to her father John Watkins of Hermantown after winning the Class A Women’s State Hockey Championship against Gentry Academy on Saturday April 3, 2021 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint-Paul. Proctor-Hermantown beat Gentry Academy 3-2 in two overtime to win their first state championship. Watkins scored the game-winning and championship-winning goal. (Clint Austin / [email protected])
The Proctor-Hermantown season was no Mirage. Proctor-Hermantown (21-0) has led the opposition by an average of 7.2-0.8 this season, rarely being challenged before the semi-finals of the state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
In an 8-0 quarter-final victory over Luverne, Watkins was in fuego, destroying his career high with five goals, including two on the same shift – no less shorthanded.
“Every player is going to miss the net in the end, including Alyssa, but not in this game,” said teammate Ella Anick. “I was like, ‘Seriously, when are you going to miss the net?’ (Anick laughs). So it was quite surprising, but not at the same time.
“Alyssa can shoot from anywhere and score. She’s just a great player at all levels, both offensively and defensively, and a great friend.
In a rarity, Proctor-Hermantown found himself against both Warroad in the State Semifinals and Gentry Academy in the Championship game, but still won with a combination of incredible depth and skill.
When that puck turned on the power play at 5:03 in double overtime, going from Izy Fairchild to Ava Anick and ultimately to Watkins, she knew what to do with it.
“Well, I’m open here, so why not film it with no one on top of me?” Watkins said. “It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
To the victors goes the booty. Watkins and Anick, a defenseman, are two of the Mirage’s five caps for this year’s squad. The field was wide open. They both received the Player of the Year award along with teammate Abby Pajari, a goalkeeper, Duluth defender Marshall Maren Friday and Grand Rapids-Greenway forward Claire Vekich, who like Watkins and Anick , is bound for Bemidji State.
Watkins’ performance at state tournaments cemented his place at the top. It was only the second state women’s hockey title for northeastern Minnesota and the first since Hibbing-Chisholm in 1997. The Mirages are only the fifth Class A public school champion.
Hockey is a fast paced game that uses a lot of players and is balanced, with change after quarter after quarter, but of the Mirage’s 14 goals in the State Tournament, Watkins had half of them.
While the 5-foot-7 Watkins was tenacious on the ice, she took the word “captain” to heart off the ice.
“Alyssa is a bit like the mother hen, so caring. She wants everyone to do their best, ”said Proctor-Hermantown coach Emma Stauber. “Anyone can go see her, so we’ve got some big skates to fill out for sure.
“On the ice, she’s a dominant force. She is a dominant presence. She contributes in any way she can, offensive zone, defensive zone, it’s just crazy. It is the complete package. College coaches wanted to know, “What’s his greatest asset? And I said to them: “All that”. “
Watkins was a late hiring from the college as the recruiting process was trickier than normal due to COVID-19 and college players getting additional eligibility.
On the Wednesday after the State Tournament, Watkins went to visit Bemidji State and loved it, enjoying the classrooms, the school and most importantly the ice rink. A few days later, she and Anick were flying with their mother to Clearwater, Florida for a vacation when she called the Beavers of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to say, “If the opportunity arises, I would like to get involved.
“It’s going to be great to go. I know a lot of new freshmen, and it’s going to be good to have Ella there because we’ve been through it all together.
You are never too young to start doing something you love. Alyssa Watkins of Proctor-Hermantown, originally from Colorado, started playing hockey when she was 3 years old. She said she has photos that go back even further than this one. (Photo submitted)
Watkins’ mother was a gymnast and his father played basketball, so his love of hockey was instilled through his relationship with his older brother Tyler, now a center at Union College in Schenectady, New York.
“Everything my brother did, I wanted to do,” Watkins said. “As soon as he was in hockey, it was the first thing I wanted to do. I would give up on everything just to do that. Hockey has always been my favorite sport, and it’s the one I was most competitive at. And especially with Tyler who was there, getting beaten up all the time (she laughed).
Well, if the Watkins were looking to promote their hockey games, they’ve certainly come to the right place. Alyssa Watkins gave up softball and soccer to focus on hockey.
“We think about that sometimes, what would have happened if we had stayed there,” said Alyssa Watkins. “Would we still be as much in hockey as we are now?”
Tyler was the consummate big brother, still pushing his little sister. Without other siblings, they are incredibly close.
Tyler Watkins, who was on the Hermantown Hawks Class A title teams in 2016 and 2017, also coached his younger sister. He is constantly giving her advice and criticism, texting her about what she was doing well and what she could do better.
Tyler even texted Alyssa throughout the state title game against Gentry Academy, giving her a real-time idea of what it was like to watch that nail bit from your seat.
“He texted, ‘Everyone’s tired, use your speed,'” Alyssa Watkins said as she reread the texts verbatim. “Then when we won, he said, ‘Amazing shot, Alys. I’m proud of you. What a way out. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending and a better shot. High-profile player and shooter.
“Just knowing he’s watching and sending pointers is reassuring… he just knows when I’m nervous or when I’m cowardly. He just knows stuff like that. I used to say, “You are always so negative,” but in the end I learned to accept him and realize that he is just trying to help.
New Female Hockey Player of the Year Tribune
Player of the Year Team
2021 Alyssa Watkins Proctor-Hermantown
2020 Taylor Nelson Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
2019 Sadie Peart Grand Rapids-Green Lane
2018 Amber Tilander International Falls
2017 Mallorie Iozzo Hibbing-Chisholm
2016 Sophie McGovern Proctor-Hermantown
2015 Jordan McLaughlin Grand Rapids-Greenway
2014 Reilly Fawcett Proctor-Hermantown
2013 Carley Esse Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
2012 Molly Illikainen Grand Rapids-Green Lane
2011 Amanda Arbogast Region Eveleth-Gilbert
2010 Julia Gilbert Proctor-Hermantown-Marshall
2009 Laura Bellamy Duluth
2008 Emily Erickson Grand Rapids-Green Lane
2007 Emily Erickson Grand Rapids-Green Lane
2006 Michelle Maunu Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
2005 Johanna Ellison Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
2004 Johanna Ellison Cloquet-Esko-Carlton
2003 Andrea Nichols Hibbing-Chisholm
2002 Andrea Nichols Hibbing-Chisholm
2001 Andrea Nichols Hibbing-Chisholm