Summer on the ice

Published 8:06 pm Thursday, July 22, 2010

ALBERT LEA — Kirsten Stanek doesn’t like helping Albert Lea win.

But there she was, setting up a scrimmage-deciding goal with a crossing pass right in front of her teammate Austin goalie Sam LeBarron to give the Tigers a victory against a squad of Austin players.

Stanek, a Packer forward, has not transferred schools, she was just competing in a drill in the sixth annual Southern Minnesota Girls Hockey camp, which wrapped up at City Arena in Albert Lea Thursday.

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The senior-to-be said she was able to stay focused on hockey, even though she was practicing with Austin’s biggest rival on the ice for the past week.

“It’s kind of hard to be friends with them and skate with them when you’re so used to going head-to-head with them,” she said. “But it’s a camp and you get used to playing with everybody.”

Stanek also got used to scoring against her teammates.

“It’s very different (going against my teammates),” Stanek said. “I kind of know all their tricks, so I can score. But it’s kind of hard to be mean or push around.”

The Southern Minnesota Camp, is not Minnesota’s biggest camp as where are usually 15-20 players there on a given night.

But it was the perfect amount of player for Austin girls hockey head coach Denny Bray, who runs the camp with Mark Jenkins of Austin.

“We’re happy with the numbers and it’s the perfect size for me and Mark to work on them with their skills,” Bray said. “It’s a fun camp and it’s a great place to be when it’s 85 degrees outside.”

The camp is open to players from all over and players from Mason City and Rochester attended, but it is mostly made up of Austin and Albert Lea players. While the two teams cooperate on the ice, they are careful not to reveal too much of their in-season strategies during drills and scrimmages.

“I don’t think (the Austin and Albert Lea players) will be the best of friends,” Jenkins said. “During a game it’s an intense rivalry, but afterwards they’re shaking hands.”

While Bray is looking to teach skills to all of his players, the camp also gives him a chance to look over his own players and see how far they’ve come since last season ended with a first round playoff loss.

This summer, Bray’s had his eye on new goalie Sam LeBarron, who will likely replace graduated three-year starter Audrey DeVries, who broke a few school records in the net.

“Sam LeBarron didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, but she did excellent in a scrimmage (against Dodge County),” Bray said. “It helps me to see what she needs to do before the season starts.”

While Bray and Jenkins are the main influences, the camp has also seen former Packers Taylor Jenkins and Kristen Faber, who both play hockey at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, come back and teach.

“They really do a good job with the younger girls, showing them fundamentals,” Bray said.

The camp will be the last time Bray has with his squad on the ice until October.

With hockey season so far away, it is easy to ask the question. Why would these players work themselves with a rival for a week straight in the middle of the summer break?

For forward Carley Grunewald, the answer is a simple one.

“If you come to this, you get in shape faster and you don’t have much puking at tryouts,” she said. “It also gets us together earlier as a team and we’re more prepared for the season.”