By Shane Frederick firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mankato Free Press
---- — Rebekah Kolstad isn’t one to sit around much. In September and October, the Mankato East junior could be found either on a soccer pitch or in a hockey rink. She played the former for her school and the latter in an elite-level fall league in the Twin Cities.
Not a day went by that she didn’t have something going — a practice or a game. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays were on the grass. Wednesdays and the weekends were on the ice. Every once in awhile there was a conflict.
There was only one part that bothered her:
“The car rides got long,” Kolstad said. “But the games and practices were fun, so it was worth it.”
Kolstad is just a hockey player at the moment, leading Mankato East/Loyola to an 11-3-0 record. The forward ranks 13th in the state in scoring with 35 points in 14 games, and her 21 goals rank eighth in Minnesota (all stats through Friday). Playing varsity hockey since she was in seventh grade, her totals have put her over the 200-point mark for her career.
“She’s taken a step up in her playing ability from where she was last year,” Cougars coach Nate Fuller said. “She’s playing at a high level, and she’s fun to watch.”
A season ago, Kolstad tied for the Cougars’ scoring lead with 55 points. That included a team-high 30 goals. With more than 40 points as a freshman and as an eighth-grader, Kolstad started catching the attention of Division I college coaches, and the recruiting process began.
She enjoyed the process — even as it took place amid her busy schedule. But she decided to make a decision with nearly two full seasons of high school hockey remaining. In early November, Kolstad verbally committed to play at North Dakota.
“(North Dakota) had a time frame when they wanted me to make a decision,” she said. “That made it easier for me. It’s a program that has done well and has nice facilities. The coaches connected with me pretty well and got to know me. ... They recruited me well.”
She said hometown Minnesota State and Bemidji State showed strong interest, and Minnesota Duluth also talked to her a bit. She sought advice from many people along the way, including Fuller, her parents and former Cougars assistant and MSU player Christina Lee.
Kolstad can’t sign with UND until next November but is glad to have the burden of her college decision lifted off her shoulders.
“It was fun,” she said. “It was stressful at the time. But getting out to see the campuses and talk to the coaches was a fun process to do.”
When Kolstad joins North Dakota, she’ll be one of two former East/Loyola players in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Her former Cougars teammate Savanna Quandt currently is a freshman at Minnesota State.
“I think that speaks a lot about our team and our program and how we work,” Kolstad said.
Kolstad continues to work on her game. Playing with and against some of the best players in the state in the Upper Midwest High School Girls Elite League this fall, she skated at wing instead of her East/Loyola position of center. North Dakota’s coaches — Brian Idalski is the head coach there — told her she might play on the wall once she’s in college, she said.
“It’s her competitiveness and her drive,” Fuller said. “Anytime she gets the puck with time and space, good things happen. It’s fun to see a player play like that, but she works just as hard in the defensive zone. She doesn’t forget about that part.”
With her college decision made, Kolstad’s concentrating on this season, and she has the Cougars in good shape, even with the departures of Quandt and other top scorers from last season. East/Loyola is ranked No. 14 in Class A.
“She’s becoming a player who likes a little bit of pressure,” Fuller said. “She doesn’t shy away from it. When the pressure and the spot light are on, she’s ready.”