Alexandria’s MaKenna Aure is heading into her senior year as one of the best girls hockey players in the state, and she’s going to get a chance to prove it.

Aure is currently in the fourth phase of USA Hockey’s CCM High Performance 17s program, which means she’s one of 28 players left in her age group from Minnesota.

The High Performance program aims to find the best players in the state and give them opportunities to play at the highest level for their age. Aure recently found out she was one of the players chosen to take part in the USA Hockey Girls Under-18 Select National Player Development Camp that will be held in St. Cloud July 16-22.

“I was speechless at first,” Aure said about when she found out she was selected. “It didn’t even register for me in my head. I was actually at my job when I found out. When I told my dad, I started crying because we didn’t think I could make it.”

The first phase is a tryout among all Section 8 teams in both girls high school hockey classes. Six Alexandria players advanced to phase two. Hanley Block, Ella Westlund, Jordan O’Kane, Hailee Bailey, Lauren Maras and Aure played three games at the Spring Festival at the Plymouth Ice Center April 16-18.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

O’Kane, Maras and Aure advanced to phase three the following weekend in Blaine. The Final 54 Festival determines which players will be selected for the National Camp that will take place in mid-July.

“I’m looking forward to the experience of playing with girls at that speed,” Aure said. “I want to get better, so I’m hoping I can learn some things to be a better hockey player and a defenseman.”

Aure, who finished with four goals and 12 assists this past season as a junior, is one of the most dynamic players in Section 8AA. Her speed and puck-handling strengths allow her to jump into offensive-zone rushes as a defenseman, which lead to scoring chances. She also excels at playing a smart defensive game. Aure takes pride in being a two-way player who can produce on both ends of the ice.

Alexandria's MaKenna Aure skates with the puck against Brainerd Thursday, March 18, at the Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Alexandria's MaKenna Aure skates with the puck against Brainerd Thursday, March 18, at the Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Not a lot of defensemen can play that way offensively,” Aure said. “I’m grateful for my speed. I’m trying to capitalize on everything I’ve been blessed with. I think the way I play opens the eyes of some people where they can be like, ‘She’s not scared to jump up in the play with the forwards.’’

Since moving up to Class AA, Alexandria girls hockey has played against some of the best players in the state. At the state tournament in March, the Cardinals went to double overtime with Minnetonka. Experiencing pressure-packed games helped Aure handle the weight of the High Performance tryouts.

“If you don’t bring your game every shift, other players are going to get picked over you,” Aure said. “Playing against a faster team like Minnetonka twice last season let me know what speed I want to play at. I know I learned a lot about the kind of players that play at that next level and what I need to do to get better in my game.”

Alexandria girls hockey has continued to gain exposure over the years. Fresh off winning Section 8AA and playing in the state tournament, current and former Cardinals have found success away from the program.

Jordan O’Kane was named Youth Hockey Hub’s Girls Goaltender of the Year in May. This was just a few months after Mayson Toft won a National Championship in women’s hockey at the University of Wisconsin. Along with Toft, Marki Oberg also will play at the Division I level for the University of St. Thomas in the fall.

Aure plans to play college hockey after her senior year but hasn’t made a commitment yet. Between touring schools and attending camps, the future of Aure’s hockey career has become a balancing act.

MaKenna Aure dives for a loose puck on Friday afternoon during Alexandria's 5-1 win over Fergus Falls at the Runestone Community Center. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
MaKenna Aure dives for a loose puck on Friday afternoon during Alexandria's 5-1 win over Fergus Falls at the Runestone Community Center. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

“It’s hard at first,” Aure said. “It’s kind of an overwhelming process. I’m thankful to have people in my life like my parents who help me make decisions that I don’t know if I could make alone.”

Aure sees this selection throughout the High Performance process as another chance to put her town on the map.

“I think a lot of us have stuck Alexandria’s foot in the door and opened up people’s eyes,” Aure said. “We’re not just a small town without any good players. We actually have the players that can keep up with the girls that we’re being told are better than us. They’re not. Give us a chance, and we’ll prove it to you.”