Just like old times
Published 5:00 pm Saturday, December 25, 2010
There are a lot of athletes who like playing their sport. They come to practice, they play in games and they enjoy it.
There are a lot fewer athletes who truly love their sport, they’re thinking about their sport outside of practice, they’re practicing every day and they thrive on game day.
Austin grads Taylor Jenkins and Kristen Faber would fall into the latter of those two categories.
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Jenkins and Faber have been hockey teammates for the better part of the last decade and their careers are coming to a crescendo this season as they are both skating on the first line for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women’s hockey team this season.
For Jenkins, a junior at UW-EC, it didn’t take long for her to find out the difference between high school and college hockey and she’s come to embrace the hard life of practicing every day and making a full-time commitment to the Blugolds.
“It’s just the love of the game,” said Jenkins, who played on two state tournament teams at Austin and holds the school’s career assist record. “At this level if you don’t love the game, it makes it hard to get up at 5 a.m. and practice every day. You’ve got to want to be there. Everyone’s here to play hockey and it’s not just for recreation.”
Faber, a senior at UW-EC, thrived with the Blugolds almost immediately as she led the team in scoring her sophomore and junior seasons and she’s already the school record-holder for points in a career and goals in a season.
“The biggest thing is that I’ve gotten a lot faster,” Faber said. “Everyone at that level is moving a lot faster and you have to be more aware of what’s going on on the ice. You have to know where the other four players are and be a smart hockey player.”
When Jenkins came to UW-EC as a freshman, she wasn’t playing a lot and finished with just four goals, but Faber was a big help to her, even though the two weren’t sharing ice time.
By her sophomore year, Jenkins was a regular in the lineup and she was back to doing something she’s done most of her life – trying to match Faber.
“I was always trying to out-do Faber when I was younger because she was number one on the team,” Jenkins said. “She still is and she’s always been a little bit better than me, so I’ve always had to play a little bit harder to keep up with her.”
Faber, who is six inches taller then Jenkins, has always been aware of her younger teammate’s presence.
“T is a great player and she’s always forced me to step up my game and get better,” Faber said. “I think we’ve gotten better together, especially the last three years.“
In Austin, the memory of Faber and Jenkins and the 2006-2007 team that went 25-5 and made it to state is still strong one for Packers head coach Denny Bray. After Faber graduated, Jenkins led Austin to another state tournament appearance in 2007-2008.
That memory rings even louder when the duo and other former players make appearances back at Riverside Arena as they’ll sometimes skate with the squad in practice.
Bray hasn’t gotten to a lot of Blugold games due to his busy coaching schedule, but he follows them closely in the papers and said they are a big inspiration to the current Austin team.
“I think it’s just cool. They both still work hard. Taylor still hast those really soft hands and Faber still has that powerful shot,” Bray said. “I think they’re a pretty big inspiration, Faber’s name comes up a lot. Her senior year she really whipped that team into something to be reckoned with. She was a big part of it on and off the ice and those girls were like 18 sisters.”
The Blugolds are off to a 5-5-1 start, but Jenkins and Faber both feel the team has potential to turn it around after the break.
And even if they don’t, the Austin grads will be having a great time out on the ice and they will also enjoy their off-time with the team.
“It’s more fun off the ice than on the ice. Non-game days and hanging out in the locker room are a blast,” Faber said.
“All around it’s a lot of fun and playing hockey is just a bonus. I still enjoy playing every day and it’s fun. Why not do something you love to do?”
Faber is majoring in physical education at UW-EC, which is a Division III school, and Jenkins is majoring in business.