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Park girls hockey: Keys on the road to recovery

Park senior Anna Keys, here on the ice for the Wolfpack as a junior, is working her way back from a knee injury that caused her to miss her final high school hockey season. (Bulletin file photo)

A Division I-caliber athlete can completely transform a high school season.

The Park girls hockey team faced that reality this past season from the beginning. Senior defender Ann Keys, a Minnesota State-Mankato recruit, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee while playing soccer for the Wolfpack in the fall. The injury ended Keys’ senior year on the ice with the Wolfpack before it ever began.

“She leads on the ice, so not having her on the ice has been difficult,” Park head girls hockey coach Steve Morse said during the season.

When the Wolfpack girls hockey team came together in November, they had to find a new identity without their top player on the ice. The girls took on the challenge.

“When the news of Anna’s injury hit the streets, our players naturally asked themselves how will we able to compete without Anna,” Morse said. “In girls high school hockey, a player like Anna changes the entire scope of a team and of the game she is playing in. She is clearly one of, if not the best player in our conference and the state.”

The season did not come easy as the Wolfpack started off 0-7, losing many one or two-goal games. Confidence had been the main issue at that point.

Keys would be at the practices and on the bench at the games. But, the senior defender’s presence on the ice could not be replaced.

“I would just try to be there for them, answer questions,” Keys said.

Then, the Wolfpack started getting wins when they netted their first victory of the season on Dec. 5. Park, which finished 4-20-2 overall and 2-14-2 in the Suburban East, won four of their last 20 games, tied two, and took section-runner up Eastview to the brink in section tournament play in a 2-0 loss.

“I thought we gave them a good challenge,” Keys said. “They didn’t let up.”

Keys had the surgery four months ago, and she got to at least walk on the ice during a Wolfpack practice late in the season. She hopes to be back for the Park girls golf season in the spring.

“I’ll be out for the first couple of weeks, but I’ll be able to play after,” Keys said.

Keys’ rehabilitation from the ACL tear also won’t negate her opportunity to play for the Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks women’s hockey team in the fall. She has been preparing mentally in addition to the rehab and stays in contact with the coaches.

“So far, they’re on board with it,” Keys said. “They’re just like, ‘get healthy and be ready to play.”

-Matthew Davis