M-Aney ways to the goal
Katie Aney is two years older than her sister Jessie, and in the beginning of their hockey careers that was all the motivation that Jessie needed to 'up' her game.
"I was 9 years old, and Jessie was 7, and we were both going to try out for the U10 (Under 10) team," Katie, now a senior at Rochester Century, recalled.
"I remember our dad (Tom) explaining to Jessie, 'these girls are three years older, and bigger and stronger, and you may not make this team.' Well, Jessie didn't like hearing that, and she just got real determined.
"From that moment up until the tryout I think she shot 25,000 pucks at the goal in our back yard — we both did — and we both ended up making the team."
It was the beginning of a long and productive hockey relationship between sisters who were already best friends, with the precocious Jessie talented enough to play up one age level after another.
All that playing time together has brought the Aney sisters to this, the most-productive goal-scoring combination in Minnesota high school girls hockey.
Katie now leads the state with 35 goals, is second in points (64), and is tied for third in assists (29). Jessie, who home schools and is a junior academically, is third in goals (33) and leads the state in both assists (38) and total points (71).
"Honestly, it's not an unexpected thing; I've known these girls for a long time and I knew it would come to this," said Century coach Dan Maidl. "It's the direct result of how hard they work, and what they put into it."
The Aney sisters lead a Century team that is having its best season ever at 15-1-0, and with a 13-game win streak going into Saturday's big rematch with John Marshall/Lourdes. JM/L dealt Century its only defeat on Nov. 14, 3-2 in overtime.
"The whole team has this 'we can win any game that we play' attitude, and it starts with those two," Maidl said.
Tom Aney, who is one of Maidl's assistant coaches and played hockey at Lourdes, said his daughters seem to have a twins-like connection on the ice.
They have a telepathic link that has created scoring opportunities from mundane to miraculous, much like twin sisters Coco and Kelly Miller did for the Mayo girls basketball team in the mid 1990s.
Katie and Jessie both joined the Century varsity in 2010-11 and in 3 1/2 seasons and 89 games they have combined for 226 goals and 225 assists.
"I think we do have that ability to know what each other is doing or thinking," Jessie agreed. "It's hard to explain, but there is definitely something there."
Katie tallied her 200th point last Saturday at Farmington, reaching a rare benchmark for high school players. Jessie eclipsed 200 points last season, and with 137 career assists is closing in on the all-time state record of 152 held by Natalie Darwitz of Eagan since 2000.
"It's mind-boggling watching these girls work together in the offensive end," Maidl said. "There's an awareness of where each other is that is really neat."
Katie and Jessie haven't thought or talked much about it, but they realize that their time playing hockey together is now numbered in weeks. If everything goes perfect for the Panthers they could wind up at the state tournament Feb. 19-22 in St. Paul. Century has never made it that far.
"That would be great but we definitely don't want to get ahead of ourselves; we have a really tough section," Katie cautioned. The unranked Panthers share Section 1AA with No. 6 ranked Lakeville North, No. 10 Dodge County and No. 11 Lakeville South.
There's not much chance the Aneys will be college teammates. Katie has many scholarship offers to consider and "definitely wants to go Division Three" so she can play both hockey and tennis. But she hasn't decided yet.
Jessie, a nationally ranked tennis player who was the Sports Illustrated 2010 SportsKid of the Year, seems destined to play Division I tennis. Jessie was the Class AA state singles tennis champ in 2011, and the sisters won the Class AA doubles title in 2012.
"Jessie is a great hockey player," Katie said, "but she is a gifted tennis player."
Jessie said she'll be back for her senior hockey season with Century, but it won't be the same, taking the ice without her lifetime line mate.
"It's going to be weird to play without Katie," Jessie said. "I'm definitely going to miss her."