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The Drill: Trojans' Kya Nickel has nimble moves on and off the ice

WORTHINGTON -- When you look at Kya Nickel in her hockey gear, she has that tom-boy look that naturally shines through under layers of warm clothing. She moves on the Worthington ice arena with easy grace, and she handles her hockey stick like it’s been an extension of her arm since she was old enough to stand on skates. It’s easy to think of her crashing into the boards and stealing pucks from opponents -- the kinds of things hockey players do.

But now, as a senior on the Worthington Trojans girls team, can you picture her in your mind’s eye in a tiara and frilly dress?

Perhaps not. Kya wasn’t always a hockey player. She was, in her own words, “a pageant girl.” And years ago, her sport of choice wasn’t hockey. It was gymnastics.

But Kya’s father is Chad Nickel, who is also the head girls hockey coach at Worthington High School. So Kya tried hockey, liked it, and now loves it.

She’s one of a handful of Nickels (there are four of them, actually) on the WHS varsity roster, and as a veteran player it’s Kya’s job to be a team leader. Last year, the Trojans posted a 6-18 record which might have been better if not for many games that resulted in narrow losses. The Trojans return everybody from that team in 2019-20, so they’re obviously hoping for better results.

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Kya, though she loves to play hockey, also participates in tennis and track and field. She likes to dance (she pursues the activity at a local dance studio). She’s in marching band at WHS and is a member of the Worthington FFA chapter. She plans to pursue her post-high school education at Southwest Minnesota State University-Marshall to become an agriculture teacher some day.

The Globe did a Drill feature with Kya recently. You can see the video online at www.dglobe.com . Here’s a sample of the interview:

QUESTION: How good can the Trojans girls hockey team be this season?

ANSWER: “The biggest strength our team has this year is that we have all returning players. We didn’t lose any seniors. We have the full team back. And we know how each other plays, so we can just build on that chemistry to make our team even better.”

QUESTION: So how about a little bit about your hockey background?

ANSWER: “Growing up, I was not a hockey player. Being in gymnastics, I’ve always been a dancer. So I always focused on that. But it wasn’t until my dad coached the Trojan girls team that I finally decided I needed to give this a try. I’ve gotta find out about what all this fuss is about. I love the sport. It’s one of my favorite things in the world.”

QUESTION: Tell us something about you that most people don’t know.

ANSWER: “The thing about me that most people don’t know, I actually was a pageant girl for a while. I wore the fancy dresses, did the fancy little girlie wave. I was in that for a couple of years.”

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Kya Nickel drill 12 04 19 S1
Worthington Trojans girls hockey player Kya Nickel plays with the puck at a recent practice. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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