Makayla Pahl is a 16-year-old goaltender from Rochester, Minn. who is regarded as one of the very best netminders in her age group. Having played with boys in her local association for four years, Pahl recently made headlines around the world of Minnesota youth hockey when she announced via Twitter that she would continue playing boys’ hockey at Mayo High School. Although she is not the first female player in the history of the State of Hockey to play for a boys’ varsity team––most notably, 2018 Olympian Maddie Rooney did it in her senior year––it is still a noteworthy occasion every time it happens. The Ice Garden talked to Pahl about her reasons behind the switch to boys’ hockey, her experience with Team USA, and her college decision.
TIG: How did you get started with hockey, and what made you want to be a goalie?
MP: Growing up, my brother always played hockey and I had always been switching sports to find the one I love. I did basketball, cheerleading, and golf. Then when I was eight or nine years old I had decided I wanted to try out hockey. I started out as a forward, and it wasn’t too long after that I tried out for goalie for spring league and I fell in love, and I haven’t left that spot since.
TIG: Your tweet announcing your future plans stated you started playing boys’ hockey four years ago. How did that come about and what made you decide to stick with it for the rest of your high school career?
MP: Yeah, I had told people before the tweet what my plans are and you know, the word spreads around and I started to face more adversity than I had before. It can be hard to hear some things that people say about you; it’s hurtful but it makes me want to work that much harder to show others that I can compete with the guys.
The ultimate reason is the competition; I love fast-moving hockey. Don’t get me wrong, girls’ hockey can be fast and I love playing girls’ hockey too, but I feel that playing boys’ hockey, where I am at now, will get me ready for when I head off to college.
TIG: How, specifically, do you feel playing boys’ hockey has made you a better player, and what do you feel you still need to work on before you’re ready for the college level?
MP: Boys’ hockey has made me better in many different aspects of the game. The speed can be really fast so you have to be quick moving to the puck, and also having awareness is crucial; you have to know where everyone is at on the ice, which has made me a smarter, more patient goalie. The biggest thing I still need to work on is puckhandling and most importantly, the transition from boys’ to girls’ hockey because the game overall is very different in many ways.
TIG: You attended the U.S. National Team Goaltending Camp this May, and also made the U18 Select Camp in June, putting yourself in a position to make the World Under-18s either this year or next. What was the experience of attending those two camps like?
MP: Attending those two camps have definitely helped because you get so many different perspectives from different coaches on different techniques, and that’s what allows you to find where you’re comfortable. The best part was meeting new people from all over the nation and becoming friends with them.
TIG: In February, you committed to the University of Minnesota, where you will start your college career in 2019. What was the process like and what made you decide you wanted to be a Gopher?
MP: I have to work to be #1 if I want to be #1. I ultimately wanted to go to a bigger college and once I stepped foot on that campus I was speechless; I loved the atmosphere. The team is like one big family; no one gets treated differently, which is a key to choosing what team to play for.
TIG: Okay, last question. What are your short-term and long-term goals for the rest of your hockey career?
MP: Short-term, keep getting better every time I set foot on the ice. Long-term, to be on the U.S. Women’s National Team and to become the best goalie in the world; yes, that seems outrageous, but it’s possible if you put your mind to it and you don’t doubt yourself.