Homecoming Weekend for Former Northland Prep Hockey Players on Bemidji State Women’s Hockey Team

Coleraine's Claire Vekich, Carlton's Taylor Nelson and Hermantown's Alyssa Watkins return to a rink that they are very familiar with.

DULUTH, Minn. – This weekend, the Bemidji State women’s hockey team will be in town to take on UMD. And the series will be extra special for three former Northland hockey stars.

Coleraine’s Claire Vekich, Carlton’s Taylor Nelson and Hermantown’s Alyssa Watkins return to a rink that they are very familiar with.

“It’s crazy. Time flies. I just think about when I was a little girl coming here and watching the men’s team especially, and even the women’s team. It’s just crazy,” said Vekich.

“It’s hard to put into words when it actually becomes a reality. You sit there and watch the women and watching high school games here. It’s just like ‘I want to be there and playing college hockey’ and then it actually comes true,” Watkins said.

“Yeah that was always my dream. I always wanted to play all the WCHA schools. But Bemidji was the one in the end because it fit me and I love it here,” said Nelson.

All three were elite hockey players for their respective high school teams. But they agree that college hockey is on a different level.

“You can’t walk around girls anymore. You got to shoot the puck often. You can’t do those little moves. And everybody’s good. It’s definitely a tough transition, but I’m starting to get the hang of it and gain more confidence,” Vekich said.

“The speed was definitely the biggest challenge. Definitely helped to have a year under you and kind of get used to the pace now,” said Nelson.

But the transition to college hockey is a little bit easier when you have some familiar faces on the team, especially for Watkins who gets to play with her mirage teammate Ella Anick.

“We came through youth hockey together. We lived out our dream together, winning a state championship so I just think continuing here. Especially coming in with a freshman class of nine people, I knew eight of them so it was a pretty easy transition coming in,” Watkins said.

Vekich, Nelson and Watkins will take the ice Friday and Saturday afternoon as the Beavers battle the Bulldogs. Puck drop for both games is set for 3 p.m.

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