Kayla continued ”So I played on a boys team my freshman year, and then I just played for Dakota’s high school team (Dakota Collegiate, in Winnipeg). And I knew at that point I was going to have to make the transition all the way to girls. I wanted to be competitive and I wanted a shot to play in college. So the opportunity came up for me to play at St. Mary’s Academy which is nice. Because I was also looking out west, British Columbia, and Alberta, certain prep schools there. But I was lucky enough to stay at home and do the exact same thing they were doing.” Fins Up tp that! So how did Saint Cloud State come into the picture, we wondered. Kayla revealed
“Saint Cloud was the first team ever to reach out to me. I think it was grade eight or nine, so I was pretty young. I didn’t know what to do at the time. And then I actually looked at other options and what not, but ended up feeling that Saint Cloud was the right choice at the time. Girls are committing even earlier now, the beginning of high school, which I think is risky. Because you don’t really know how they’re going to develop. Because high school is where you kind of find your roots, your skills and your talents and kind of turn into the player you hope you’ll be. So it’s risky, but if you get the right player at the right time, it’s perfect."
Kayla spent three seasons at Saint Cloud State, and just missed playing for our former #9, the amazing Molly Engstrom. Kayla told us “The girls absolutely love her there! She’s been awesome for them.i enjoyed my time at Saint Cloud. I loved the girls, we had a really good group of girls. It just kind of came down to that there were little things here and there kind of bothering me. I think going into my third year, I was kind of losing my love and passion for hockey. And growing up that was my big thing, it was hockey, hockey, hockey. I loved the sport and would do it every free moment I had. And I felt myself losing that. And I knew that wasn’t something I was going to sit back and watch happen, and let happen. So I had a few conversations with the coaches, teammates, and then with my parents.And it was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life regarding hockey, to leave. So I wasn’t sure if there were going to be other teams wanting to pick up someone going into their senior year. So it’s definitely scary, but exciting at the same time. When I finally made the decision, Clarkson reached out right away, and it was a blessing. I knew a couple of the girls on the team, and when I decided to go there it was one of the best things that could have happened, for sure.Sometimes all you need is a fresh start in a sense.”
Over her three years at Saint Cloud, Kayla played in over one hundred games and was a consummate two way player. She ranked consistently high in offensive categories for the Huskies, and had more than twice the amount of assists as goals. And, she led all team forwards in blocked shots as well. She was also named Captain in her Junior year. We asked Kayla if she embraces a leadership role, and she gave us this terrific response
“I don’t think you ever need a letter to be a leader or a role model.i think having a letter on your chest puts extra pressure on. Sometimes people handle it, sometimes they don’t. But at the end of the day, a letter on your chest doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t make anyone look at you differently, or it shouldn’t. I think being a leader comes from within, and there are different leaders in every aspect of hockey. There’re loud leaders, hard working leaders, on ice leaders, off ice leaders. So I think growing up, just because the experiences I've gone through, I love to be a leader and role model. I do coaching in the summer when I’m at home. So getting to be a little bit of a role model for girls and leading them in the right direction, and kind of sharing my story with them, is something that I love doing. And then obviously at Saint Cloud, I was the captain. And that was was a big honor, absolutely, being a junior. I don’t think that had happened there. So it was a big accomplishment and an honor and it was definitely, a challenge I was willing to take on. And I did a pretty good job. Everyone has their own opinion:) I love to be a leader anyway that I can, on every team that I’m on. And in different situations in life too.” Cetacean Nation notes that Kayla was also an assistant captain for Team Canada’s 2015 Silver. medal winning Women’s U-18 Championship.
We talked with Kayla about the Whale’s great work with our Little Future Draft Picks, and asked if she had been part of anything like that in college. Turns out, she certainly had. She explained
“At Saint Cloud there would be little skates, and little practices that we’d go to. We’d just volunteer and go and skate with teams and what not. At Clarkson we had the Little Knights Club Fan Club. So after every game we’d do little events for them,. We’d have a Halloween stuff, Christmas stuff, arts and crafts and what not. More just making sure they felt included. And it allowed them to get to know us, not just see us on the ice, but actually get to know us off the ice. Which I think is super important for any young girl growing up and wanting to be a hockey player, to kind of follow our footsteps. And maybe make it to the level we’re at one day. So giving them the chance to get to know you as a person, by allowing us just to talk to them. Get to know them too, and to influence them,motivate them, and kind of make them excited for the road they can go down if they choose hockey.” We think Kayla is going to be a big hit ar the autograph table!
Cetacean Nation also asked Kayla to look back over the past four years and tell us some of what comes to mind. She replied
“I think just being a part of that league, the NCAA, was a huge honor itself. You grow up watching those girls play. North Dakota was always closest to me, so I grew up watching them. My Dad coached the University of Manitoba here, the Bisons. The men’s team would go down and play North Dakota, just for exhibition games, so our family would always go. So just getting the atmosphere, seeing the fan base, the energy in the building, getting to experience that was something cool for sure. Because you look at sports right now, there’s obviously a difference in the size of the fan base for men and women. Clarkson had a huge fan base for both men’s and women’s hockey, so getting to feel that energy and feel supported, and have kind of a sixth man on the ice with the crowd, was super cool. I don’t know if there is a specific game or anything that was my favorite. But at Saint Cloud we got to play in the outdoor game. We ended up playing UMD outdoors at Saint Cloud, which was cool. Just the whole Hockey Day in Minnesota, the set-up was super cool. Just to get back to your roots and play outside again. So that was probably one of my favorite memories. I’m sure there are more I could think of, but that one was super cool, super different, super unique.”
Along those same lines, Cetacean Nation asked Kayla about her first game with Clarkson, 9/27/19. She scored her first goal for the Knights that day at Syracuse in 4-3 win. She recalled
“That was definitely exciting for sure. First game, first point, that’s definitely something I’ll remember forever. Actually, one of my best friends (Whale Draft Pick Savannah Rennie) who grew up playing with was on Syracuse too. So that was pretty cool, being my first game, a different team and everything. So having her on the other team kind of brought me back to my roots, and made me appreciate everything that much more. I got two goals in both of those games (a home & home with a Syracuse) and I got an assist in the second game when we were at home. Pretty hot start for sure.”