Alexis Kirkeby working to be 'the best she can be'
Alexis Kirkeby, a junior forward for the Jamestown High School hockey team, is currently leading the state in total scoring.
In elementary school, Alexis Kirkeby didn't want anything to do with hockey.
"It was a 'boys sport' so my dad convinced me to do figure skating," said Kirkeby, a junior forward for the Jamestown High School girls hockey team. "I skated for two years until I finally made the switch to hockey. I have been playing hockey for nine years since then."
It is lucky for the Jays she made the switch.
Kirkeby, a four-year starter for head coach Andy Fitzgerald, is currently leading the state in total scoring with 14 goals and seven assists for a total of 21 points. As of Dec. 28, Kirkeby is averaging three points per game.
Last season's leading scorer, Rylee Bartz of Fargo North/South, is currently sitting one point behind the Jamestown junior.
"She was already a strong skater from figure skating, and she picked up the other skills amazingly fast, so I had an inclination she was going to be a good player," Ben Kirkeby, Kirkeby's father said. "She also had a better work ethic, self-discipline and competitive drive than I ever did playing myself.
"I remember coming one day home one day after practice when she was in that first year and I was coaching and she asked if I would take her equipment into the house. I asked why and she said, 'I need to work on my backhand, mine sucks!' That same mentality is still in place today."
Last season, Kirkeby was ranked 25th in the state in total scoring with 18 total points accumulated over 18 games played. JHS alum Ella Roaldson led the Jays in total scoring with 24 points -- the 14th best number in the state. Roaldson left some big shoes to fill as she was the Jays' leading scorer for four straight years.
"Ella was a good player, but my personal goals have nothing to do with beating other players' point records," Kirkeby said. "I’m just trying to be the best player I can possibly be and reach my fullest potential.
"Playing the game for so long and falling in love with it has made the game more enjoyable. I enjoy the people on the team I play with and the competitiveness of the game itself."
Kirkeby played a lot of high-quality hockey over the spring, summer and fall, being named to a high-caliber AAA team out of Minnesota called the River City Selects and Team North Dakota which played in the Minnesota Elite League and the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) in the Twin Cities.
"I experienced a lot of success at that level of hockey and brought that confidence back into the North Dakota high school league," Kirkeby said.
In addition to playing the game at a high level, Kirkeby stepped up her offseason and regular season training this last year.
The junior was a part of Coach Bill Nelson's B.A.D. Strength and Conditioning Camp during the summer and has continued the weightlifting trend this school year. The junior is enrolled in Nelson's Strength and Conditioning class. Kirkeby attributed her involvement and dedication to the strength program to Fitzgerald.
"Coach Fitzgerald helped me get into weight training and emphasized how important it is to be successful on the ice," Kirkeby said. "(Coach Nelson) pushes me to be my best and has made me stronger. He is a great strength coach."
Within the last year, University of Jamestown men's hockey goaltender Tyson Brouwer founded 1st Class Skate Experts, a hockey and figure skating shop. The shop, complete with a skate sharpener, a skate rivet machine and a heat oven, is located at Jamestown Regional Airport.
Brouwer also has a synthetic ice setup where locals like Kirkeby can skate and practice skills. Kirkeby said that the resources provided to her by the new supply and skills shop along with the traditional weightlifting and conditioning components have helped her tremendously throughout her second-to-last prep season.
"I’ve always been taught to not focus on other people's performances because I cannot control that," Kirkeby said. "I am trying to focus on the things under my control by working on my pre-game preparation routine to make my play more consistent. I am more experienced, confident and physically stronger."
While she's been working on building up her own game and level of play, Kirkeby has also been setting some team-related goals for the Blue Jays who are looking to make it to their second-straight state tournament.
Whatever team building the junior has undertaken seems to have taken some effect as she said there have been some team chemistry-type changes from last year's squad.
"The locker room culture has changed," Kirkeby said. "We are all positive, supportive and we all get along well. Having a stronger connection has made us more of a cohesive team. It also seems like we’re working harder on the ice this year.
"I am going to be the best teammate and player that I can be -- in that order."
As of Dec. 27, the Blue Jays were evenly split at 3-3 in conference and 4-3 overall. Scores from the Jays' tilt against Fargo Davies on Dec. 30 were not available when The Jamestown Sun went to press.
Kirkeby knows that her entire team has her back when she is squaring up for a shot but the junior acknowledged that it would not be a total team effort without her dad on the bench.
"My dad has played hockey his whole life and knows the game really well," Kirkeby said. "He has coached both me and my brother's teams when we were younger. Having my dad on the bench has made me push myself.
"He’s always there to put me in my place if I’m not giving it my all. He is my biggest critic and I am very grateful for his input. I would not be where I am today without him."
Ben, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Jamestown, has also helped his daughter with the mental side of the game, a feat that has given the state's leading scorer an edge out on the ice. Kirkeby said her father has emphasized how her personal decisions will ultimately lead to how successful she is and how she needs to take personal ownership in her development as an athlete.
"She has made the decision to be good at something and she realizes that it takes a lot of hard work, self-discipline, and practice to reach your fullest potential," Ben said. "Hard work and practice lead to success and success leads to confidence.
"She has taken that confidence into this high school season and with her mental preparation she is seeing it all pay off."