February 15, 2019 12:28 AM
Skylar Vetter played every game for the United States National Team at the World Women's Under-18 Ice Hockey Championship this past January in Japan.
"It was such an amazing experience," Vetter said. "The tempo of how hard they train is amazing. It’s so much fun to be able to train with the top players in the country.
"Seeing all the talented players you’d never see anywhere else and then after winning games, hearing the national anthem is the best feeling."
Vetter was in goal the entire tournament despite being just a 15-year-old sophomore on a team comprised of the best under-18 players in the United States.
"You hear stories about 'so-and-so is the best at this age or that age'," said Lakeville North coach Trent Eigner. "But when you age up two-and-a-half or three years and go play every minute and play like she did? It’s incredible."
After coming home with her silver medal, Vetter went back to her regular spot on the Lakeville North *boys* JV team.
"I started playing with the guys in third grade," she said. "It was just on a pickup summer team at first, but then transitioned to year-round in fifth grade."
"I could see probably as a pee-wee and a bantam she aspired to a different deal," said Eigner, who oversees the entire Lakeville North boys program as the varsity head coach. "I wasn’t surprised when she approached me about it."
Vetter's experience as the only girl on boys teams has never been anything short of positive.
"Growing up with these guys, they’re some of my best friends," Vetter said. "You get to know them, and I'm treated just like any other guy on the team."
She's fit in perfectly, but there was trepidation at first.
"For me it was a new deal to conceptualize and think about," Eigner admitted. "As a father, coach and mentor you think about the things that can go wrong in a situation like this. But her approach has alleviated any angst about it. She’s just pure athlete. When she’s on the ice, gender is absolutely out of the question."
"As a guy who considers himself an old-school guy I never thought I’d come across, but the more and more you get to know her as a person and an athlete - it becomes kind of a non-starter. She just has done everything you’d want out of an athlete."
Vetter and Forest Lake junior Josie Bothun, who plays goalie for the Forest Lake boys varsity this year, are following in the footsteps of former Andover goalie Maddie Rooney.
"My sister played with (Rooney) in summer pickup hockey," Vetter said. "Back then, as soon as I heard she was playing boys I was like, 'That’s what I want to do too'."
Rooney switched from the Andover girls program to the boys program between high school seasons. From there, not only has Rooney shined in college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth, she's was in goal for the United States' gold-medal Olympic run in Korea. That made her a househild name among young female hockey players nationwide.
"She was amazing when she was in high school and she still is now," Vetter said. "I always wanted to grow up playing with the boys in high school. Knowing that she did it gave me more of a motivation to try out with them... that it’s been done before, and it’s nothing new."
Through the years, skating on boys teams has become the norm for Vetter and her teammates, but it's possible they've grown so accustomed to having her around, the level of talent she has might be somewhat overlooked as she's assimilated into the boys game.
"She kinda cleans up any of the gender questions with her athletic ability, but I’m not so sure that you don’t wanna celebrate what’s going on," Eigner says. "She's the real deal as an athlete."
But when she's between the pipes, it truly is business as usual for Vetter.
"This is her normal," Eigner said. "I’ve told a million people, if you cut the ponytail off you have no clue because she is a pure athlete."
Told of Eigner's comment about her ponytail, Vetter smiled. "Honestly, that compliment is everything," she said, before immediately insisting her ponytail isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
"I love my ponytail," Vetter laughed. "Playing with the boys, I want everybody to know that I’m a girl... and that I can still beat you."
It's expected Vetter will compete for a spot on Lakeville North boys varsity squad in the coming years before she heads off to college.
She's already committed to play at the University of Minnesota.
Updated: February 15, 2019 12:28 AM
Created: February 14, 2019 04:04 PM
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