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Golden Girl

02/09/2017, 4:00pm CST
By Elizabeth Boger

Meet Grace Zumwinkle, one of the most dominant players in high school hockey

Just as girls’ hockey soon grew large enough to garner its own teams, Zumwinkle’s passion for the game flourished.

The senior forward at Breck High School already has a gold medal under her belt after playing in he 2016 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship, and she’s also earned honors as an all-conference golfer and state champion tennis player.

We caught up with the future Minnesota Golden Gopher to learn more about her family’s influence, skill development and how she balances her time between multiple sports. 

Minnesota Hockey Journal: You had quite the start to your senior year (24 goals in 9 games prior to joining Team USA for the 2017 Under-18 Women’s World Championship in Czech Republic). Is it bittersweet to be playing your last year of high school hockey?

Grace Zumwinkle: It’s definitely a little bit bittersweet. The team has always been so fun to hang around and we’ve gotten so close. But at the same time, I’m also looking forward to college hockey.


MHJ // Do you have any specific goals you’re trying to accomplish before the end of the season?

Zumwinkle: Yes, for sure as a team, the goal is obviously to make it to state; but we know that’s out of our control. As a team, we also have measurable goals, which are working hard during practice every single day and growing as a team on and off the ice. Outcomes aren’t always the best formulation for goals. We’re just focused on the little things and we know those will add up at the end of the day. 


MHJ // How intense is the Breck-Blake rivalry? 

Zumwinkle: Honestly, it’s probably one of the most intense rivalries in the game; especially with being one of the top-three teams consistently year in and year out. Everyone gets hyped for it. 


MHJ //  What do you think makes a hockey player strong, and why is it important to stay tough out there on the ice? 

Zumwinkle: I think the biggest thing is being resilient, and overcoming obstacles that may come your way. You always have to be mentally prepared for a bad shift or getting scored on. You have to be able to bounce back.


MHJ // Do you have any advice for younger girls who are either just getting started or want to take their game to the next level?

Zumwinkle: I think just continue to improve your skills on and off the ice and be a good teammate. If you’re a good teammate, people are going to want to play with you, and that makes the game so much more enjoyable. 


MHJ // Do you remember the first time you laced up the skates as a kid?

Zumwinkle: I remember one of my friends in kindergarten came to school one day and we were just talking. He said he was going to try out hockey, and I was like, ‘I want to try, too!’ I went home and told my parents and they made sure I was sure I wanted to try it, and then we went out and bought the equipment. The night before I was going to actually skate, I didn’t actually want to do it and was crying in my bed. My parents reminded me that I was already signed up, and they really encouraged me. I loved it ever since.



Is there a specific hockey player you look up to?
I’ve looked up to Winny for the longest period of time. Winny Brodt—she’s been a great mentor to me. 

Any nicknames?
Zummy or Zum.

What’s on your perfect pizza?
Just cheese.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Work is what will help you down the road. Working hard is what separates the good from the great. 

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Probably Jordan Spieth.

Do you have a go-to breakaway move?
I like to go to my backhand. But I know goalies are going to start picking up on that so I try to switch it up here and there (laughs).


MHJ // Where did you play your youth hockey?

Zumwinkle: I started in Chaska/Chanhassen, and then we moved [to Minnetonka] a few years after starting. So I spent the majority of my time in Minnetonka. 


MHJ // Did you play with the girls or the boys?

Zumwinkle: When I started, I was with the boys because that was one of the only options and the girls’ program hadn’t evolved yet. But as girls’ hockey started becoming more popular, I switched over to the girls’ team, so I spent the majority of my time with them. 


MHJ // Nowadays, it seems we are to the point now where there are enough programs, opportunities and competition out there that girls don’t have to play with the boys. What do you think about that?

Zumwinkle: For sure—it’s evolved so much. I think it’s awesome to see the sport continuing to grow. I know hockey has always been boys-dominant with the NHL and everyone’s goal is to go there. But I think especially with the NWHL starting, it’s encouraging girls that they can go far in hockey. Obviously, it’s not to the same extent the boys are, but it’s making progress.

MHJ // Is there a specific coach that's really made an impact on you?

Zumwinkle: I don't know if there's one specific, but obviously Winny Brodt, and then Ronda Engelhardt, who's our high school coach. And then Scott Bjugstad, he's a shooting coach of mine. I think they've all given me the tools to help me succeed and be the best player and person I can be. 

MHJ // Is there a specific coach that’s really made an impact on you?

Zumwinkle // I don’t know if there’s one specific, but obviously Winny Brodt, and then Ronda Engelhardt, who’s our high school coach. And then Scott Bjugstad, he’s a shooting coach of mine. I think they’ve all given me the tools to help me succeed and be the best player and person I can be. 

MHJ // You’ve mentioned that one of your favorite memories is the 2010-11 Minnesota Hockey 12U State Tournament. Why is that?

Zumwinkle // Well our team, back in that year, we were neck and neck with Edina the whole time because we were in the same district or region. We had played them like six times throughout the year and we had to beat them to go to state. We just hung out all the time as a team. We were super close and just loved being together. 


MHJ // You were invited to USA Hockey’s Winter Training Camp. What does that experience mean to you?

Zumwinkle // I think there’s only one other high school player besides myself, but it’s such a huge honor. It’s been a dream of mine to skate with them. I know a few of them from Minnesota. I also met a few at a camp I went to in New York and they’re all super welcoming and friendly.


MHJ // How do you think the opportunities you have with USA Hockey helped to strengthen your overall game?

Zumwinkle // They teach team first and all the priorities of being a good teammate and player. Those concepts have helped me to be a leader back at home, especially for younger girls. 


MHJ // Not only do you play hockey, but you’re also a good tennis and golf player. How did you get into those sports?

Zumwinkle // I don’t know exactly what drew me to them. My mom played tennis, so we’d hit the tennis ball around when I was growing up as a family. And then golf—my dad is really into that and we do it as a hobby. I’ve always found it as a good leisure sport. It’s not too competitive, but it’s competitive enough. It motivates me to win, and obviously everyone likes to win. It’s also kind of a good break from hockey. It helps my mental game especially because in golf if you have one bad shot, you can’t dwell on it. In tennis it’s the same thing. I think that mental component has really helped me in hockey. In tennis especially I like the agility component.


MHJ // How do you think playing in multiple sports has helped your overall hockey development?

Zumwinkle // I think playing multiple sports has obviously helped my game, especially hockey and my love for athletics. I think it’s given me a good pathway for balance. It gives me breaks at times when anything is overwhelming. I just think it’s important to get out and have fun. 


MHJ // Why did you choose to play collegiate hockey over golf or tennis or any other sport?

Zumwinkle // I like the component of being on a team. Everyone has their own quirks and I think that’s what makes a team so unique and close. Everyone is together in one unit, whereas tennis and golf are
more individual. 

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