This story originally about incoming women's ice hockey first-year Kaylee Eykyn (Mankato, Minn./Mankato East/Loyola) appeared in the Mankato (Minn.) Free Press. Also view a PDF on SMCAthletics.com here.
By Kevin Dudley
Kaylee Eykyn and Mankato East/Loyola girls hockey coach Amber Prange each remember the conversation well.
It was during Eykyn's freshman year, her first on varsity, and Prange's first year as the Cougars' coach in 2017-18.
Prange asked Eykyn about her long-term hockey goals, and Eykyn didn't hesitate — she wanted to play Division I hockey.
Nearly four years later, Eykyn has achieved that goal, as she's signed to play at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont.
"Looking back on that, it's kind of nice that I was able to fulfill that dream for myself," Eykyn said. "It was probably the best moment I could've asked for."
Added Prange: "She sets her mind to something, she's going to make it happen."
Like many 2021 seniors, the recruiting process wasn't always easy for Eykyn. She put herself out there as much as possible with highlight tapes, but the pandemic simply made getting noticed more difficult.
She knew she wanted to go to school out East after getting a chance to play some hockey in Boston a few years back, and many of the women's Division I programs are on the East Coast.
She sent her highlights to Saint Michael's coach Chris Donovan, and the two of them ended up having a great conversation, which led to an offer.
Saint Michael's went Division I in 2019 and is part of the New England Women's Hockey Alliance, which also became a Division I conference in 2019.
Eykyn knows playing at the highest level will be difficult, but she's ready to embrace the challenge just as she did in her first varsity season at East.
"It's going to be that same kind of feeling, same kind of vibe," Eykyn said. "Just showing that I want to be there and that I should be there, too. That I'm there to offer something to the team and to the rest of the players."
Over four varsity seasons at East/Loyola, Eykyn had 41 goals and 23 assists in 100 games.
After initially playing defense as a freshman, her ability and willingness to jump up into the rush caused Prange to switch her to forward.
Eykyn's skating ability was the hallmark of her game at East/Loyola, and Prange feels it will be a big asset at the next level.
"She's got long legs, but she uses every part of her stride efficiently ... that's part of the reason why she's able to get up to such a high speed in a short amount of time or space," Prange said. "Just as much on an offensive play as on a back check, she's right in there. Whatever's necessary."