ALEXANDRIA BAY — While Kamryn Barnes has excelled on the soccer field, her real passion as an athlete is on the ice.
As a defenseman for the Islanders girls hockey team, Barnes has shown plenty of versatility, as well as leadership for a primarily young team.
“I think it could be a little better,” Barnes said of her effort this season. “I’m going to play college hockey, so I’m just trying to play the best hockey possible and do whatever I can to help the team win and succeed.”
Barnes, a standout soccer player for LaFargeville, is a co-captain along with fellow senior Renzi Youngs. Junior goalie Jenna Christopher serves as an assistant captain for the Islanders.
“Definitely, Kamryn is such a good defender and Renzi plays forward,” Islanders coach Brian Hudon said before team practice on Tuesday at Alexandria Bay Municipal Ice Arena. “And Jenna is one of the best goalies around. So there’s kind of a lot of weight on their shoulders to lead the way and help our younger players.”
The trio’s leadership has been vital this season for a team that includes only three seniors.
“Things are going pretty well,” Barnes said of the Islanders, who primarily consist of players from the Alexandria and Thousand Islands school districts, but sport players from other schools, such as Barnes and Christopher. “Our team is struggling a bit because we’re so young, I think us older players have a lot on our shoulders in helping to lead the team.”
The Islanders made a move to compete against Section 10 teams this season after previously skating in Section 3.
“I think it’s a great challenge,” Barnes said. “And there’s more teams for us to play and the travel isn’t so hard as it was last year. I think it’s a great challenge for us, especially with up-and-coming underclassmen.”
Heading into Wednesday, the team had posted a 2-4 record, including a 2-3 mark against Section 10 competition.
“We’ve had a slow start, but with the hard work we’re putting in during practice, hopefully it will pay off in the future,” Christopher said. “We’re getting to know our team better and become more of a family, so that’s starting to show in the way we play.”
“For sure, as a senior you always have pressure because you want to do well your last time around,” Barnes said. “It’s definitely a lot of pressure because you’re a role model for the girls and you want them to look up to you as much as possible.”
While Barnes likes to be creative in generating plays in soccer, she also enjoys the physical nature of hockey.
“I enjoy the physicality of it,” Barnes said. “And I like the mental and physical part of it because hockey is such a mental game, you have to know where the puck’s going to be before you get there and you have to know what play you’re going to do before you get the puck.”
She isn’t afraid to make a hit on the ice or even take one, it’s just the nature of the game for her.
“It’s gotten a lot more physical,” said Barnes, who will attend Liberty University in Virginia. “As you get older, you’re allowed to hit. But I think it’s become way more physical.”
In her second season with the Islanders, Barnes previously played with the Syracuse Nationals travel team, but thought it might be nice to try playing at the high school level.
“She wanted to come back and experience the high school game,” Hudon said of Barnes, who also plays the St. Lawrence Steel, a travel team based in Canton. “She’s an offensive defenseman, she moves the puck well and she’s got a great shot and great vision on the ice.”
Barnes, who scored four goals and assisted on two others through the first six games of this season, hasn’t regretted it and is trying to savor her final season with the Islanders.
“I think it’s great, we don’t see each other every day in school as you would in soccer and softball,” Barnes said of playing with teammates who attend different schools. “It’s fun coming in and talking about our day in the locker room and there’s always something to talk or joke around about. But then you get on the ice and it’s all serious.”
Christopher, a goalie for the Islanders since she was in the eighth grade, also keeps busy when she’s not with her high school teammates as she plays for the Potsdam Ice Storm travel team for much of the winter.
Hudon, who said last season that Christopher was one of the best goalies in Section 3, now considers her as one of the top goalies in the state.
Christopher, who attends Watertown High School and is a forward on the Cyclones’ soccer team, makes the daily after-school commute to either Alexandria Bay or Clayton for hockey games or practices.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to travel all this way and make it to practice,” said Christopher, who says she’s been playing hockey since she was three. “But we always find a way to make it work and it’s worth it in the end.”
“She’s getting a lot of exposure,” Barnes said of Christopher. “She puts herself in tough situations to make herself better at this level.”
Christopher so far has won two games this season for the Islanders while posting a 2.87 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage.
“It’s been a challenge,” Christopher said of her performance this season. “We’re working out a few kinks here and there, but I’m improving just like the rest of the team. And I’m very grateful for the opportunity they’re giving me to become a better goaltender.”
Hudon said of Christopher’s style as a goalie: “She’s very versatile. She’s up and she’s down, she’s in the butterfly and she’s back up. She’s great with the glove, good with the blocker. She’s very quick with her movements and her hand reactions are great. She has a lot going for her.”
Barnes’ cousin Youngs, who attends Thousand Islands, has played varsity hockey since the ninth grade and was a team manager when the Islanders won a state championship in the 2015-16 season.
“It’s definitely been a bigger role for me this year just because we have a younger team,” Youngs said.
Youngs first played on defense at the scholastic level and moved up to play forward at right wing before she was called upon to play center this year for the Islanders.
“She’s really developed into a leader for us and she definitely works hard,” Hudon said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Youngs said. “She’s awesome,” Youngs said of Barnes. “Kamyrn, she’s my family, she’s my cousin, we’ve played together ever since we were little.”
The Islanders’ move to Section 10 this season has yielded mixed results as they’ve won two of five games in the league.
“It’s a little fun because we get to play teams that we didn’t really play before,” Christopher said. “It’s like a new adventure for us. ... It’s nice to face other teams with a lot of skills so we can improve ourselves.”
The Islanders now have six games remaining in the regular season, including two against Oswego, which also moved from Section 3 to compete in Section 10 this season.
“We know we have some important games coming up, so hopefully we can make it to the playoffs,” Youngs added.