Dakota Golde is a stay-at-home defenseman for the co-op PREP hockey team, comprised of players from Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Elk Grove and Prospect.
Golde played in 24 of the team's 29 North Central Division games this season, and Golde's lone season statistics are four penalty-minutes -- a two-minute tripping penalty last October against Crystal Lake South and a two-minute roughing in December against Carmel Catholic.
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But Golde certainly has scored big in overcoming obstacles.
First, Golde is one of only two freshmen on the team, and second, Golde is the lone girl on the team, one of the few girls playing for a boys varsity team in the state.
"At first, I was very scared and it was tough, but once things got going, it became more natural and then became just like any other game to me," Golde said.
Thing is, Golde has always played girls hockey, and still also now skates for the elite Chicago Mission U16 girls' team -- and girls hockey is no-check.
No so for the boys.
"The hitting is the most difficult, most challenging aspect of playing on a boys team," Gold said. "The first time I got hit, it was really difficult for me because I was not expecting it at all, nor did I know what it was going to feel like. Now, I'm getting used to it and it feels fine."
Even as one of the smallest varsity skaters around -- she stands 5 feet, 4 inches off skates.
"I knew she was tough enough (to play on the boys team), but my biggest fear was the size of the boys," said her mom, Melissa Golde. "She learned real quickly to get out of the way, or not be near," any significantly larger opponents.
"Yes, I was nervous at the start of the season, but not really anymore, though I think a lot of opponents go after her just because (her blonde ponytail sticks out from her helmet). She's learned to take the hits, or get out of the way."
And her teammates are quick to protect their talented defenseman, such as the time recently when she was hit from behind. Golde immediately went down on the ice, but by the time she was getting up, her teammates were near by, swarming the opponent who hit her.
"That was pretty cool," Golde said.
Melissa said the PREP teammates have basically become "a bunch of big brothers" to Golde, their teammate wearing uniform No. 18.
Golde, one of 10 PREP players who attend Rolling Meadows, has been teaming on defense most of the season with Jacek Jasinski, a sophomore at Rolling Meadows. Both have RM, in school colors, stitched on their PREP jerseys, as all players represent their school on the team uniform.
"After they realized that she wasn't going to hurt the team as a player, they really started to accept her," Melissa said.
Dave Mugavero, the PREP head coach, added: "She really is a special player, on the ice (almost) daily with her two teams -- because she really loves the sport."
Hockey is just one of the sports on Golde's slate. She played basketball (freshman team), volleyball (JV), and is set to play soccer in the spring (varsity).
And she used to be a figure skater.
"She made the switch to ice hockey a few years ago (when) she realized she would get more ice time playing hockey than she would from just doing a one- or two-minute routine for figure skating," Mugavero said. "Her figure skating background is one aspect that makes her such a good hockey player as her skating and edge skills are superior to many of the boys that play the game.
"There are times in practice or a game when she will nick a skate blade or have issues with (the) edge on her skate blade. The impressive thing with her is that she can alter her skating stride and use the other edge for the remainder of practice or the game, and you would never know unless she told you."
Golde, 15, shoots right-handed and plays right defense. The team finished 13-12-3 in the North Central Division and earned the No. 9 seed in the 2013 Illinois State Hockey Championships (Combined Division). PREP opened its state tournament play on Feb. 23, with a dominant 14-0 win against Lincoln Way No. 2. The team's next state tournament game is Saturday against Lincoln Way No. 1, at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville
"This season has been mostly what I expected -- lots of hitting, harder shots, more aggressive play," Golde said. "It's been fun the whole season, just different.
"It took a few weeks, but all of my teammates accept me."
Golde said she chose to play on the boys team, too, just to improve her overall play.
"Being a tougher player will help me become a better player, and the boys team was better for that," she said. "This season definitely has helped me improve, and also get better for the other sports. Hockey just helps me become a more well-rounded athlete, gets me in better shape, helps with foot work, overall strength."
Stampede takes North Central Division: The co-op BG/H/W Stampede built a 3-0 lead over arch-rival Maine Township on Saturday in Vernon Hills, and then hung on to capture the inaugural North Central Division Championship.
The Stampede won 4-3 in the deciding game three of the physical series, played in front of about 1,000 raucous fans.
Maine captured game one in a shootout, but BG/H/W won game two 5-2.
The Stampede, comprised of players from Buffalo Grove, Hersey and Wheeling, finished the regular-season 28-1-2, with the lone league loss coming against co-op Libertyville.
Junior forward John Cappuccitti, who scored several highlight reel goals against Maine, leads the team with 29 goals and 36 assists in 31 games played. Linemate Patrick Myers has 37 goals, most on the team, and 25 assists. Senior center Cody Turcotte has 23 goals, 30 assists. Goalie Andrew Cole had a 1.36 goals-against average in league play.
The Stampede, seeded No. 2 (Combined Division), open state tournament play on Sunday against Conant, seeded No. 18, at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville (3:50 p.m.). The winner of that game moves into the round of eight against the winner of the CCM Tigers-Latin School of Chicago on Wednesday, March 13. The state championship (Combined Division) will be played Sunday, March 24, at the United Center.