"Her work ethic sets her apart and that’s what has led to her having a phenomenal year,” Breck coach Ronda Engelhardt said about Grace Zumwinkle, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. Star Tribune photo by Jerry Holt
Grace Zumwinkle, the middle of three sisters, brought hockey into the home first.
Then a kindergartner, her pioneer spirit endured even after a less-than-promising debut on skates.
“I was the worst one out there, by far,” Zumwinkle recalled with a laugh. “The other kids skated circles around me. But when I got off the ice, I told my parents, ‘I’m the best one out there!’ ”
Mike Zumwinkle said he told his daughter, ‘Grace, if you think you are then you are.’ ”
There’s no longer a doubt. Zumwinkle capped a five-year varsity career at Breck by being selected the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. A slapshot clocked upward of 80 miles per hour, strong skating and hockey sense translated into 42 goals and 16 assists and solidified her place as a key figure in the evolution of girls’ hockey.
The three-sport star has played in the state golf tournament and won a pair of doubles state titles in tennis. But hockey is her future. Zumwinkle committed to Minnesota.
Her credo — train like you’re No. 2, play like you’re No. 1 — is as close as she comes to arrogance. Playing for a Class 1A program, Zumwinkle tallied six of her nine hat tricks against Class 2A opponents. Though she could have, she never declared her dominance like she did as a little girl.
“She’d get three goals or more in a game and ask me, ‘What can I do better?’ ” Mustangs coach Ronda Engelhardt said. “Her work ethic sets her apart, and that’s what has led to her having a phenomenal year.”
In her first two games, her shot was one part Paul Kariya, one part Paul Bunyan. Against Centennial, five total goals, one goalie’s mask dented. Against Benilde-St. Margaret’s, one goal, a busted shin guard and a broken goalie’s skate.
She stayed on a roll. Zumwinkle tallied a hat trick in a loss against Edina, the No. 1 seed in this week’s Class 2A state tournament. She later added a goal and an assist when the Mustangs defeated the Hornets in a shootout at the Edina Walser Tournament.
The game counted as a tie, but it served as another example of Zumwinkle playing a key role to keep Breck among the metro area’s best teams regardless of class. She emerged as a captain for a young team and carried the Mustangs to a 5-4 section title loss against Blake.
All five of Zumwinkle’s five varsity seasons ended the same — a loss to rival Blake with a trip to state on the line. Yet she and senior teammate Kendall Williamson skated over to the elated Bears players and offered encouragement to go defend their state title.
“It’s unfortunate she didn’t get into the state tournament, but she leaves as one of the top players ever in girls’ high school hockey,” Engelhardt said.
The Star Tribune’s Metro Player of the Year were chosen based on nominations from metro-area coaches, conversations with a panel of coaches and staff observations.
2016: Presley Norby, Minnetonka
2015: Taylor Williamson, Edina
2014: Sydney Baldwin, Minnetonka
2013: Dani Cameranesi, Blake
2012: Hannah Brandt, Hill-Murray
2011: Meghan Lorence, Irondale
2010: Bethany Brausen, Roseville
2009: Becky Kortum, Hopkins
2008: Lauren Smith, Holy Angels
2007: Katharine Chute, Blake
2006: Chelsey Jones, Stillwater
2005: Maggie Fisher, South St. Paul
2004: Erica McKenzie, Hastings
2003: Erica McKenzie
2002: Ashley Albrecht, South St. Paul
2001: Renee Curtin, Rsville.; Jody Horak, Blaine
2000: Krissy Wendell, Park Center
1999: Krissy Wendell
1998: Natalie Darwitz, Eagan
1997: Ronda Curtin, Roseville
1996: Winny Brodt, Roseville
1995: Jamie DeGriselles, Apple Valley