Reporting John Lauritsen
ROBBINSDALE, Minn. (WCCO) — Most freshmen hockey players dream of playing on varsity some day. But ninth-grader Angel Hillstrom is already living that dream, on the boys varsity team.
She’s the goalie for Robbinsale Cooper. But it was a loss off the ice led Angel to become just one of the guys.
When you take a look at the freshman goalie in the crease for the Cooper boys hockey team, Hillstrom is quick, agile and has good vision.
What was your reaction when they said we are going to have Angel be our goaltender this year?
“I kind of had mixed thoughts about it. I was kind of excited at the same time,” said Sam Morgan, a captain of the Cooper boys hockey team.
And for good reason. Hillstrom has led the Hawks to five wins this year. But it’s how she ended up as the guys’ goalie that might be the bigger story. She played on the girls varsity team as an eighth grader, but last year her beloved coach, Chris Johnson, lost his battle with cancer.
“He was like a second father and losing him was one of the hardest things. Playing without him didn’t feel right anymore,” said Hillstrom.
With numbers down, the Cooper girls were scheduled to pair with Armstrong this winter. Hillstrom had other ideas and approached boys coach Bill Rooney. After checking with the Minnesota State High School League to make sure it’s allowed, he decided to give her a shot. She won the job.
“She competes really hard and she doesn’t like the puck going into the net. She will scramble around for loose pucks. That’s probably her best attribute,” Rooney said.
Winning over her new teammates wasn’t as hard as you might think. Growing up a Cooper girl, Hillstrom only wanted to play for Cooper teams. That type of loyalty goes a long way.
“From girls hockey to guys hockey it’s a lot harder shots and she hasn’t seemed to shy away from any of them. That’s really kind of impressed me,” Morgan said.
Hillstrom has even impressed herself. She’s proven age and gender are not a problem. She’s learned to fit right in.
“The guys are all here for me the coaches are all here for me. It’s pretty amazing to realize what an opportunity I’ve had. It’s amazing.”
Hillstrom said she wants to play college hockey some day, and she’s not the only girl goaltender at Cooper. Their junior varsity team also has a girl in net.