AHS graduate AK Fuentes heads to New England to play DIII college hockey
Even before she got to high school, Ana Kate Fuentes — who goes by AK — had it all planned out. She was going to graduate and she was going to play college hockey.
It was that simple.
“When we got her eighth grade packet, if you will, when she graduated, she had some goals in there,” said Dave Fuentes, AK’s father. “One of them was to graduate from high school. The second one was to play hockey in college. She’s had it on her mind for a while and she basically figured out how to make it happen.”
AK Fuentes, who was part of the Aspen High School graduating class of 2020 in May, has dedicated herself to the sport over the past four years and it paid off. She’ll attend New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, where she’ll play for the Pilgrims’ NCAA Division III women’s ice hockey team.
“I clicked really well with the coach and some of the girls on the team,” AK Fuentes said. “I play a similar style to most of the girls on that team, and I really liked the campus. Everything just kind of clicked together.”
Fuentes went out of her way to make the hockey dream work. She played for the Colorado Select and then Team Colorado her freshman and sophomore years, both AAA programs. Then she decided to move to St. Louis, Missouri, her final two years of high school to play for the St. Louis Blues AAA team. She lived with the family of one of her teammates and attended a public high school in the area. She returned to AHS for her final semester to graduate as a Skier.
Fuentes missed some time in there battling a hip injury, but gained enough exposure to catch the eye of the New England College assistants and earn a spot on their team.
“I finally got back on the ice and we had a tournament in Boston over Christmas break and the New England College assistant coach was there and saw me play and then talked to me after one of the games,” AK Fuentes said. “Since I started high school I really wanted to play in college. I was thinking about taking a gap year before I met with the New England College coach.”
Should the coronavirus pandemic not get in the way, Fuentes has plans to compete in a tournament next week in Boston — which is about 80 miles south of the New England College campus — where she’ll get to skate alongside some of her new college teammates for the first time.
This winter, should the season take place, Fuentes will try and help the Pilgrims have their first winning season since 2010-11. They went 3-21-1 last season.
“It’ll be a good place for her to meet some of her teammates and compete with them,” Dave Fuentes said of the Boston tournament next week. “It’s going to be fun and it will be great for her. The school is a great fit. It’s got her major and it was fun to see her being recruited by the criminal justice department just as much as for the hockey.”
Maybe more so than the hockey, AK Fuentes loved the school’s academic fit. She dreams of a career as an FBI agent, a passion fueled in part by watching numerous crime dramas growing up.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching cop shows and I’ve been really into true crime documentaries,” she said. “I’ve watched everything on Ted Bundy that is out there. It’s just so fascinating to me. The FBI, I watched a lot of ‘Criminal Minds,’ so it seemed really cool.”
Fuentes plans to play center in college, a position that suits her well considering she’s adept at playing all over the ice. She grew up playing with the boys as a defenseman, and even spent a short time playing goalie, although admitted she was never all that good in net.
Still, she’s a lot better at it than she was at her first sport of ballet. Enamored by watching her brother, Jamison Fuentes, practice, she had left ballet behind by age 5 and jumped into the hockey world. Jamison is a pitcher for Adams State University’s baseball team, while Dave Fuentes has long coached the AHS softball and baseball teams in some capacity.
“They’ve got a really good handle on what they are doing, how they are doing it, and it makes me feel really comfortable sending her out there knowing they have a plan on how to handle all of it,” Dave Fuentes said of New England College’s plan in regard to the pandemic. “When she made the decision to move to St. Louis, we supported her on it. St. Louis is a long way away. Boston is a long way away. But it’s still a plane ride and it’s still reachable.”
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Once the Aspen High School defense woke up — random 4 p.m. kickoffs need some getting used to — the Skiers were able to dictate Saturday’s football game en route to a 22-7 victory over visiting Steamboat Springs on the AHS turf.